Choice Hotels International, Inc. CHH reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter 2019 results. The top and the bottom line surpassed their respective Zacks Consensus Estimate and increased on a year-over-year basis. The upside can be primarily attributed to increased domestic franchise agreements, solid progress on its flagship Comfort brand and continued expansion of its Cambria brand across the country.
The lodging franchisor reported adjusted earnings of 92 cents per share, which beat the consensus mark of 84 cents and rose 4.5% year over year. Notably, this marked the eighth straight quarter of earnings beat.
In the quarter under review, total revenues came in at $268.1 million. The figure increased 9% from the year-ago quarter’s level and topped the consensus mark of $258 million.
Let’s discuss the quarterly numbers.
Franchising & Royalties
Domestic royalty fees totaled $82.3 million, up 2.5% year over year. However, domestic system-wide RevPAR dropped 2.1% year over year. Average daily rate (ADR) inched down 0.4% and occupancy was down 100 basis points compared with the prior-year quarter’s level.
The company’s newly-executed domestic franchise agreements were 307 in the fourth quarter. As of Dec 31, 2019, the number of domestic hotels and rooms rose 1.6% and 2.9% year over year, respectively.
Choice Hotels International, Inc. Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise
Choice Hotels International, Inc. price-consensus-eps-surprise-chart | Choice Hotels International, Inc. Quote
Total operating expenses increased 5.7% from fourth-quarter 2018 to $199.5 million. Adjusted EBITDA also increased 6.3% from the prior-year quarter’s number to $81 million.
As of Dec 31, 2019, the company had cash and cash equivalents of $33.8 million compared with $26.6 million on Dec 31, 2018.
Long-term debt in the same period was $844.1 million, up from $753.5 million at 2018-end. Goodwill, as a percentage of total assets, was 11.5% at the end of the fourth quarter compared with 14.8% at 2018-end.
In 2019, Choice Hotels paid out cash dividends of $48 million. In 2020, the company expects to pay dividends worth approximately $50 million. Meanwhile, management repurchased roughly $0.6 million shares for nearly $50.6 million under the share repurchase program during 2019. As of Dec 31, 2019, the company had 3.9 million shares remaining under the current share repurchase authorization.
In 2019, total revenues amounted to $1.1 billion, up 7% year over year.
Adjusted earnings per share (EPS) for the year ended Dec 31, 2019 was reported at $4.32 compared with $3.89 in 2018.
Adjusted EBITDA amounted to $364.9 million, up 7% from 2018 levels.
First-Quarter 2020 Guidance
For first-quarter 2020, adjusted EPS are anticipated in the range of 80-84 cents. Its mid-point of 82 cents is above the current Zacks Consensus Estimate of 81 cents. Domestic RevPAR is expected between flat to down 2% for first-quarter 2020.
For 2020, Choice Hotels expects adjusted EPS in the range of $4.22-$4.33. Adjusted EBITDA is expected between $378 million and $385 million. Net domestic unit growth for 2020 is expected to range between 1.5% and 2.5%. The company expects full year adjusted net income between $237 million and $244 million.
Domestic RevPAR is expected to be between flat to down 2% for 2020.
The company's domestic effective royalty rate is expected to increase in the range of 4-8 basis points for 2020 from 2019 levels.
Zacks Rank & Key Picks
Choice Hotels currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Some better-ranked stocks in the Zacks Consumer Discretionary sector include Vista Outdoor Inc. VSTO, YETI Holdings, Inc. YETI and Hilton Grand Vacations Inc. HGV. Vista Outdoor and YETI Holdings sport a Zacks Rank #1, while Hilton Grand Vacations carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
Vista Outdoor has trailing four-quarter positive earnings surprise of 23.1%, on average. The company’s earnings beat estimates in two of the last four quarters.
YETI Holdings has three-five year expected EPS growth rate of 17.2%.
Hilton Grand Vacations 2020 earnings is expected to rise nearly 44.1%.
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