Wendy's Co. (>> The Wendy's Company) said it reached an agreement with the Wissol Group to develop 25 restaurants in the neighboring countries of Georgia and the Republic of Azerbaijan over the next 10 years, allowing the fast-food chain to continue its international expansion.
Wissol, which is one of the largest business groups in Georgia, is expected to open its first Wendy's location in 2013 in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital city of about 1.1 million residents. Wissol also works with French oil giant Total S.A. (TOT, FP.FR) and Italy-based API Anonima Petroli Italiana SpA. (T7M.BE).
"Georgia is a dynamic market with long-term growth potential for the Wendy's brand, and it plays an important role in our continued expansion in Eastern Europe," Wendy's international business President Darrell van Ligten said.
Wendy's hopes to spur long-term growth by investing this year in international expansion and menu innovation, continuing tests of its new breakfast menu and even newer Black Label premium burgers. Its other major long-term sales driver is its portfolio of four new restaurant design prototypes that are more modern and entice diners to eat inside, where they typically spend more money.
Wendy's has seen its bottom line pressured by rising commodity costs and increased marketing efforts recently. In January, it said its fourth-quarter earnings fell 30% as charges masked the fast-food chain's improved same-store sales and stronger-than-expected revenue growth.
The company's shares were down 2 cents at $4.98 in recent trading. The stock is down 7.1% so far in 2012.
-By Ben Fox Rubin, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3108; firstname.lastname@example.org