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Bloomin’ Brands could blossom in 2024

bloomin brands stock price

Bloomin’ Brands (NASDAQ: BLMN) served mixed results for Q4 and provided tepid guidance, but repositioning efforts have the restaurant stock set up to blossom in 2024. A massive closure effort intended to trim older, underperforming assets in favor of new and new assets is underway, and results have begun to show. The takeaway for investors is that this undervalued, high-yielding stock is improving its cash flow and driving value for shareholders. 

Bloomin’ Brands has a mixed quarter; the board increased repurchase authorization

Bloomin’ Brands had a mixed quarter, with the top-line result falling short of the consensus estimate. The $1.19 billion in net revenue missed by a slim 85 basis points on weakness in comp sales. Comp sales declined in most segments; Carrabba’s is the only one to grow in the US, and it was aided by an additional week, a positive FX tailwind, and new store openings. Comps fell -0.2% systemwide, Carraba’s grew by 2.5%, International grew by 0.6%. 

The margin news is mixed but ultimately favorable to higher share prices. Changes in the GAAP and adjusted margins at the restaurant and company level offset each other, leaving adjusted earnings up YOY and better than expected. The $0.75 is 1000 bps ahead of consensus and outpaces top-line growth. 

Bloomin’ Brands' cash flow is solid and allows for balance sheet improvement, distribution growth and share repurchases. The dividend is less than 30% of the earnings, with no red flags on the balance sheet. The company’s cash balance improved YOY despite an increased working capital, reducing net debt. Net debt is less than 2X equity, and equity is rising, up 50% YOY. 

The board authorized a new share repurchase program that should help improve shareholder value. The new authorization replaces the remainder of the old, increasing the available balance by roughly $300 million or about 12% of the pre-release market cap. The new approval includes a provision to reduce and retire debt early, another move improving shareholder value. 

Guidance for 2024 aligns with the outlook for distribution increases, robust share repurchases and debt reduction. The company expects US sales to be flat to up 2%, including adding 40 to 45 new restaurants or +3.5% at the midpoint. The new stores set the company up to sustain low-single-digit growth in 2025 and may outpace guidance in 2024. Either way, the $2.51 to $2.66 in projected adjusted earnings is sufficient and aligns with the analysts' forecasts. 

Activist investors may unlock more value for shareholders

Bloomin’ Brands is a tightly held stock with more than 90% owned by institutions. Institutional holdings include significant positions by Vanguard and BlackRock for their funds and a large amount of private capital. Among recent purchasers is Starboard Capital, which holds nearly 10% of the stock. Starboard is known for investing in deeply undervalued companies. Among their success stories is Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI), a stock that has significantly outperformed Bloomin’ Brands over the last ten years. 

The technical outlook is mixed. The market is rangebound and moving lower following the release. Assuming no one buys the dip, this stock could fall into the low $20s. However, the 30-day moving average provides support. In this scenario, BLMN stock could consolidate at current levels and possibly retest the recent highs soon. 

The risk is the analysts. The analysts are iffy on the stock and have reduced the sentiment to Hold from Moderate Buy and the price target. The consensus is that BLMN is fairly valued near current levels; it may not be able to move out of the range until that trend changes. 

bloomin brands

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