updated 10/9/2007 11:17:24 AM ET 2007-10-09T15:17:24

Shares of Yum Brands Inc. rose sharply Tuesday after the operator of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut said its international restaurants served up another strong performance, boosting third-quarter profit.

Yum Brands Inc. on Monday said profit in its China division grew 28 percent and international division profit rose 21 percent for the three months ended Sept. 8. The company’s U.S. operation had a scant 1 percent profit growth for the period.

Overall, net income rose to $270 million, or 50 cents per share, from $230 million, or 42 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected earnings per share of 45 cents.

Yum’s stock climbed around $1.89 per share, or more than 5 percent, to $38.18 early Tuesday after the results were released late Monday.

The Louisville-based company’s revenue rose 13 percent to $2.56 billion, from $2.28 billion in the third quarter of 2006. Analysts predicted revenue of $2.44 billion.

Much of the increase was due to the company’s international division, in which revenue jumped 43 percent. Quarterly revenue rose 31 percent in Yum’s China division, which includes mainland China, Thailand and KFC Taiwan.

In the U.S., meanwhile, revenue fell 6 percent as the company had trouble getting people to come back to Taco Bell locations in the U.S.

System same-store sales, including franchisees’ sales, rose 1 percent from a year ago as growth in franchise performance offset a 1 percent decline for company restaurants.

Company same-store sales fell 6 percent at Taco Bell, which is trying to recover from an E. coli outbreak at some of the chain’s East Coast restaurants last year that sickened 70 people. Yum’s U.S. operations also were hurt by another highly publicized setback — a rat infestation in a New York City KFC/Taco Bell restaurant that was filmed by a TV news camera in February.

“Our U.S. business performance improved versus the first half of the year; however, sales and profit growth remains below our target level due to results at Taco Bell,” said David C. Novak, Yum’s chairman and chief executive.

Yum executives predicted improved Taco Bell results in the fourth quarter along with solid U.S. profit growth.

“We’re starting to see signs the business is turning, and we expect the business will continue to recover into the fourth quarter and well into next year,” Yum spokesman Jonathan Blum said of Taco Bell.

Yum also said it plans up to $4 billion in share repurchases in the next two years. The company predicted that 2007 will be the sixth straight year of exceeding its target of at least 10 percent annual earnings per share growth.

Year-to-date results also showed sharp contrasts between Yum’s overseas and U.S. performance.

Through the third quarter, operating profit was up 25 percent in the China division and 21 percent higher in the international division. Meanwhile, operating profit was down 4 percent in the United States.

For the full year, Yum said it expects U.S. system same-store sales and operating profit to be essentially even with last year.

The company’s brands also include Long John Silver’s and A&W All-American Food Restaurants.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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