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CIBC World Upgrades Outback Steakhouse

CIBC World Markets upgraded Outback Steakhouse (OSI) to sector perform from sector underperform. On Thursday, the restaurant company posted 2.6% higher October comparable-store sales.

Analyst John Glass tells S&P MarketScope that the upgrade was due to strong October sales, easing comparable sales, and margin stability. He notes October comparable sales were the best in nearly two years. The company will face easing comparable sales over the next three quarters, while its competitor Darden Restaurants (DRI) will face tough comps.

Glass says Outback has locked in beef and butter prices at favorable rates for 2003. He also notes the company has declared its first quarterly dividend, with a yield approaching 1.5%. He maintains EPS estimates of $2.06 in 2002 and $2.35 in 2003. He raised his $32 price target to $38, at 16 times 2003 EPS estimate.

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