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Darden provides quarterly earnings forecasts

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Darden, owner of restaurant chains such as Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and LongHorn Steakhouse, has completed its repurchase of about $900 million of a previously announced $1 billion debt retirement.

The company expects to retire the remaining $100 million of debt later this month.

Darden said that it used proceeds from its recent sale of Red Lobster for the debt retirement and to start a $500 million accelerated stock buyback program.

Darden announced last month that it had completed the sale of Red Lobster to investment firm Golden Gate Capital. Activist investors Barington Capital and Starboard Value had objected to the nature of the breakup. The company also announced in July that Chairman and CEO Clarence Otis was stepping down.

The Orlando, Florida, company predicts first-quarter adjusted earnings from continuing operations in a range of 28 cents to 30 cents per share. For the second quarter, it foresees 24 cents to 28 cents per share. Darden anticipates 80 cents to 84 cents per share for the third quarter and 87 cents to 91 cents per share for the fourth quarter.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect a first-quarter profit of 47 cents per share and 22 cents per share for the second quarter. They anticipate a profit of 81 cents per share for the third quarter and 74 cents per share for the fourth quarter.

The company said that its quarterly forecasts account for the debt retirement, accelerated stock buyback and sale of Red Lobster.

Darden Restaurants Inc. still expects fiscal 2015 adjusted earnings from continuing operations between $2.22 and $2.30 per share. Wall Street is calling for $2.23 per share.

Darden owns and runs more than 1,500 restaurants. Its other brands include Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V's and Yard House.

Its shares slipped 3 cents to $47.18 in midday trading Monday. Its shares have fallen more than 13 percent so far this year.

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