BJ's Restaurants, Inc. announced that its board of directors approved a $50 million increase to the company's share repurchase program to $250 million. The company has repurchased and retired around $187 million shares of its common stock since the program was first approved in April 2014, including around $21.2 million repurchased in the 2015 fourth quarter to date. With this increase, the company has around $63 million available under its $250 million share repurchase program.
"BJ's is uniquely positioned in our industry as a growth concept that simultaneously returns capital to shareholders while maintaining a strong balance sheet and financial position," comments Greg Trojan, president and chief executive officer. "Our strong operating results, as reflected by the significant year over year rise in operating income for the first nine months of 2015, combined with our restaurant expansion plan which delivers double digit unit growth, is enabling the company to opportunistically repurchase shares. The repurchase program expansion announced today represents the third time the board has expanded our repurchase authorization since the program was first implemented in April 2014.
"Importantly, our significant cash flow growth over the last two years allows us to maintain balance sheet prudence, with just $67.5 million of funded debt at September 30, 2015, while expanding our restaurant base and returning capital to our shareholders. Over the last two years, we have opened 27 total new restaurants and we plan to open 18 or 19 new restaurants in fiscal 2016. We believe we are one of a few restaurant companies that can grow our unit base in low double digits while simultaneously returning capital to our shareholders. With just 171 restaurants open as of today, and estimated domestic capacity for at least 425 BJ's restaurants, we have many years of restaurant growth opportunities ahead."
Pursuant to the share repurchase authorization, purchases may be made from time to time through various methods in accordance with applicable securities laws, including open market transactions, block trades, accelerated share repurchases, privately negotiated transactions or otherwise, certain of which may be effected pursuant to a trading plan adopted in accordance with Rule 10b5-1 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The timing and actual amount of shares to be purchased will be subject to management's evaluation of market conditions, applicable legal requirements, the company's ongoing evaluation of its capital position and capital requirements and other factors. The company is not obligated to purchase any additional shares under its expanded repurchase program, and repurchases may be suspended or discontinued at any time without prior notice.
BJ's Restaurants, Inc. currently owns and operates 171 casual dining restaurants under the BJ's Restaurant & Brewery, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, BJ's Pizza & Grill, and BJ's Grill brand names.