Latin America and the Caribbean (“LAC”) delivered comparable sales growth of 0.7%, despite challenging prior year comparisons in each of the company’s key markets. The company implemented new value initiatives in Brazil and Mexico in October to balance its menu options and complement premium offerings such as the Picanha burger in Brazil. Net restaurant growth accelerated 139% to 110 units in the fourth quarter, driven by strong development in Brazil, Mexico, and Central America.
Asia Pacific (“APAC”) comparable sales increased by 0.8%, driven by better results in Australia and Korea. Net restaurant growth accelerated in APAC in the fourth quarter, up 49% to 70 units, driven by new unit development in China, Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
As part of BKW’s global refranchising strategy, the company refranchised 181 company-owned restaurants during the quarter, primarily in the U.S. and Canada. In connection with this quarter’s refranchising transactions, BKW received cash proceeds of $34.9 million, development commitments and re-imaging commitments. Including completion of the previously announced refranchising of the company’s restaurants in Mexico and the sale of restaurants in the U.S. which closed in the first quarter of 2013, BKW will have completed its refranchising initiative in the U.S., LAC, and APAC.
As part of BKW’s international expansion strategy, in the fourth quarter, the company entered into master franchise and development agreements for South Korea and the Nordics (Sweden, Denmark, and Norway), an exclusive development agreement for Colombia and master franchise joint venture agreements for Central America and South Africa. Additionally, the company announced a master franchise joint venture agreement with Alsea S.A.B. de C.V., its largest franchisee in Mexico, which is expected to close in 2013.Cash and Liquidity At quarter end, total debt was $3.0 billion and net debt was $2.5 billion. Due to the improvement in net debt and in trailing twelve month Adjusted EBITDA, the net debt to Adjusted EBITDA ratio improved to 3.8x at December 31, 2012 from 4.6x at December 31, 2011.