Sportscene optimistic about 2013 despite bodycheck caused by NHL lockout

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MONTREAL - The operator of Quebec's sports themed La Cage aux Sports restaurant chain says it remains confident about the coming year despite a bodycheck to its business caused by the NHL lockout.

Sportscene Group Inc. (TSXV:SPS.A) said Thursday that after two years of significant investments, it will move to reduce costs, primarily in its kitchen operations, and focus on customer service.

"Despite the uncertainty that continues to prevail in regard to the 2012-2013 hockey season, we are still confident as to fiscal 2013, considering the investments and initiatives carried out over the past two years to expand and modernize our operational base, improve profitability and enhance the overall offering to our target customers," said president and CEO Jean Bedard.

The chain started the new fiscal year by acquiring an additional 50 per cent interest in a Cage formerly operated as a joint venture and a 50 per cent stake in three non-banner restaurants located in the Montreal area.

"In addition to bringing an accretive contribution to Sportscene Group's results, this latest acquisition offers interesting synergy potential," he added.

The Montreal-based company reported Thursday that it earned $544,000 attributable to shareholders or 13 cents per share in the fourth quarter. That compared with $411,000 or nine cents per share a year earlier.

Revenues for the period ended Aug. 26 grew 6.5 per cent to $19.1 million from $17.9 million in the corresponding quarter in 2011. Total network sales including from franchisees increased seven per cent to $26 million.

Sportscene added three restaurants in the first quarter and a fourth at the end of the fiscal year.

Sales for restaurants open at least a year — or same-store sales — increased by four per cent on efforts that were initiated during the summer.

For the full year, net earnings decreased nearly 19 per cent to $3.26 million, or 78 cents per share, from $4 million, or 96 cents in 2011 on lower same-store sales, costs associated with new restaurant openings and the organization of two boxing events in 2012, one less than the prior year.

Revenues increased five per cent to $84.3 million from $80.25 million. Total network sales grew by 2.3 per cent to $110.3 million.

"We believe Sportscene Group has done well in the last fiscal year, given the particularly challenging context we were faced with in regard to both our competitive and sporting environment," Bedard said, noting that it paid 30 cents per share dividend during the year from its $9 million of operating cash flows.

Founded in 1984, Sportscene Group operates 52 sports-themed restaurants, 40 of which are wholly or jointly owned by the company and 12 that are franchised.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Sportscene shares were unchanged at $7.25 in afternoon trading Thursday.