LONDON May 10 Britain's Restaurant Group said it had the best new site pipeline in years after reporting rising organic sales and margins in the first 19 weeks of the year, sending its shares to an all time high on Wednesday.
The chain, which owns over 400 restaurants and pubs in Britain, said it expected to open at least 30 new sites this year, the majority of which will be Frankie & Benny's restaurants, and has more openings planned for 2014.
Adding to its portfolio of American-style eateries, Restaurant Group's new Coast to Coast restaurants also performed particularly well, it said.
Total sales rose by 11 percent and like-for-like sales by 4.5 percent over the first 19 weeks of 2013 compared with the same period last year.
"This is a slightly stronger performance than we anticipated and the group is on track to report a very satisfactory H1 performance," said Panmure's Simon French in a note.
Restaurant Group's shares were up 4 percent in early trading to an all time high at 500.50 pence, marking an increase of over 27 percent since the beginning of the year and valuing the company at 979.46 million pounds ($1.49 billion).
It expects to pay a full-year dividend for the year to the end of December of 11.8 pence per share, representing a 12-percent increase.
Canaccord analyst Wayne Brown said the company was now at an inflection point in terms of the amount of cash it is generating, prompting him to ask whether the group could consider a special dividend or share by back.
"The group is benefiting from the structural dynamics that are favourable in terms of the shift away from the High Street to out-of-town Leisure and Retail parks," he said. "Restaurant Group remains best positioned to take advantage of this trend."