* Sees Q3 total rev, margins in US & Canada below prior yr
* Blames bad weather in Jan and Feb for sales lull
* Sales and traffic trends improve in March
* Shares up 1 percent (Adds analyst comments, details on March performance, LOS ANGELES to dateline; updates share activity)
By Lisa Baertlein
LOS ANGELES, March 9 Burger King Holdings Inc BKC.N expects lower fiscal third-quarter revenue and restaurant margins in the U.S. and Canada as bad weather in the central and eastern United States kept diners away.
The Miami-based hamburger chain added that sales and traffic trends are better this month, helping to lift shares 1 percent.
"We have seen improvement in sales with positive traffic at our company-owned restaurants in the U.S. and Canada during the first week of March, compared to January and February, as the impact of weather has become less significant," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Chidsey said in a statement.
The fast-food chain operator said on Tuesday over 75 percent of its U.S. and Canada segment's restaurants are located in those regions and said the segment's comparable-system sales fell 8.2 percent in January and February from a year earlier.
Burger King estimated the weather reduced January and February U.S. and Canada system comparable sales by about 3 percentage points.
On Monday, archrival McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) said February sales at restaurants open at least 13 months rose 0.6 percent in the United States. [ID:nN08166766] That improved from January, when U.S. same-store sales fell 0.7 percent. [ID:nN09236773]
McDonald's restaurants are distributed more equally throughout the United States and the chain is outpacing other hamburger chains.
Earlier on Tuesday, restaurant operator Ruby Tuesday Inc (RT.N) also forecast a decline in same-restaurant sales at company-owned locations in the third quarter due to bad weather. [ID:nN09221457]
Burger King, maker of the Whopper sandwich, said worldwide comparable sales for the two-month period ended Feb. 28, 2010 were down 5.4 percent, helped by overseas sales. Its fiscal third quarter includes January, February and March.
Robert W. Baird & Co analyst David Tarantino in a client note cut his third-quarter earnings per share estimate for Burger King to 27 cents per share from 31 cents previously.
Tarantino repeated his "outperform" rating on the stock, saying Burger King shares are a good value and that sales trends should improve in coming quarters on easier comparisons.
Burger King shares were up 21 cents to $18.53 in morning trade after falling as low as $18.08 earlier in the session. Shares in Ruby Tuesday were up 5 percent to $9.50. (Additional reporting by Dhanya Skariachan in New York, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Derek Caney)