Yum profit buoyed by strength at KFC, shares jump

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(Reuters) - Yum Brands Inc YUM.N beat Wall Street's third-quarter profit target as KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurant sales topped expectations, sending shares up nearly 8 percent to a record high on Thursday.

Strong results at KFC, Yum’s biggest revenue and profit contributor, drove most of the profit upside with robust emerging market sales.

Shares in Yum, which spun off its massive China business a year ago, were up 6.5 percent at $79.14 at midday.

Net income from continuing operations nearly doubled to $418 million, or $1.18 per share, helped by the better-than-expected restaurant sales, cost controls and a lower effective tax rate. [Bw7SF25Qa]

Excluding items, the company earned 68 cents per share, topping analysts’ average estimate by a penny, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Yum’s global sales at established restaurants rose 3 percent for the quarter, beating the 1.7 percent gain expected by analysts polled by Consensus Metrix.

KFC reported 4 percent overall sales growth for restaurants open at least one year. Emerging markets rose 5 percent, while the United Sates was up 1 percent.

Yum’s U.S.-dominated Taco Bell reported 3 percent same-store sales growth amid intense competition from other restaurants, food retailers and newer rivals such as meal-kit sellers.

Pizza Hut reported a 1 percent gain in global sales at established restaurants. Strength overseas offset flat results in the United States, where promotions and other efforts appear to be helping it make progress against Domino's Pizza Inc DPZ.N and other pizza chains.

Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Bernard Orr and Meredith Mazzilli