EBITDA

EBITDA totalled $339.2m, a decrease of 3% on the previous year ($349.6m). As a percentage of sales, it fell from 13.2% to 12.2%. The figure for 2008 includes about $8m in costs for the reorganisation project launched in July, net of which EBITDA would have fallen by 0.8% and stood at 12.5% of sales. On the cost side there was a slight increase in personnel expense, especially in the first half of the year, due to many reasons but primarily to the increase in employee health plan expenses. The cost of sales was stable, in spite of a rise in raw material prices in the first six months, thanks to new menus and the gradual transfer of this expense onto consumer prices. Rents and royalties were on the rise, due to the full-year consolidation of FoodBrand (whose rents are higher as its locations are mostly in malls) as well as the impact of the decline in sales. Operating and general expenses also went up, the former due to higher energy costs and the latter to the new facility in Asia. In the fourth quarter, the decrease in EBITDA was limited to 1.3% (from $94.7m to $93.5m), and from 11.7% of sales to 11.6%. The improvement in the cost of sales and a decrease in general costs managed to offset the increase in rent. The fourth-quarter result was boosted by the 53rd week of sales, and negatively influenced by a provision of $2.4m for onerous contracts.