US fastfood company Wendy's International has lowered its earnings guidance for 2004 after hurricanes affected sales and profits at its outlets in the southern states.

The company said it is adjusting its 2004 earnings per share guidance to a range of $2.25 to $2.30, which is a 10% to 12% increase over its 2003 earnings of $2.05 per share. The company's previous guidance for 2004 EPS was a range of $2.32 to $2.37.

The company said it expects earnings per share for the third quarter ending 26 September 2004 to be in a range of $0.59 to $0.60.

Wendy's said the adjustment for the year is due to a combination of factors. The third-quarter factors include the impact on Wendy's restaurants from recent hurricanes and an increase in legal reserves, including the preliminary settlement of litigation. Factors affecting fourth-quarter results include higher-than-expected beef costs and short-term challenges at Baja Fresh Mexican Grill.

Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan negatively affected sales and profits at Wendy's company and franchised restaurants throughout the Southeast and Gulf Coast, as the bad weather led to closed restaurants, structural damage, mandatory evacuations and power outages. In addition, customer traffic at Wendy's restaurants has been affected by heavier-than-normal rain in the aftermath of the hurricanes, especially in the Southeast and Northeast US.

Wendy's said US company same-store sales for the month to 20 September are running around 1.0% lower than a year ago, which is lower than expected.