Yum! to Sell Long John Silver's, A&W

LOUISVILLE, Ky. ( TheStreet) -- Yum! Brands ( YUM) said Tuesday it put restaurant chains Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Restaurants up for sale as it pushes to expand in international markets.

Yum! said the divestments come as it narrows its focus for long-term growth plans toward greater expansion in China and other international markets while concurrently growing sales at Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC in the U.S.

Investors were pleased with the idea of a slimmer, more focused Yum!, bidding the restaurant operator's shares 2.6% higher to $49.10 in early-afternoon trading. More than 3.2 million shares were in play with just under three hours left in the session, compared with their average daily trading volume of 2.8 million.

Yum! said it was looking for a buyer for LJS and A&W but has yet to find one.

CEO David C. Novak commented that Yum! grew earnings-per-share by 13% over the past ten years, crediting the growth to aggressive expansion in China and other emerging markets , opening an average of nearly four new restaurants outside the U.S. each day.

"We do not believe Long John Silver's and A&W-All American Food restaurants fit into our long-term growth strategy," Novak said. "Accordingly, we have decided to put these two great brands up for sale and we will complete the sale only once the right buyer or buyers have been identified and we can ensure a seamless transition."

Yum! added that it "does not expect the eventual sale to have a material impact to its ongoing earnings or cash flow."

The company said that in 1998, when it spun-off from PepsiCo ( PEP), 22% of its earnings were internationally sourced, compared with a 65% share today. It expects that figure to grow to 75% by 2015.

Yum!'s chief of India operations said in November he expects revenue to grow between 35% and 45% in 2011. Comparable same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least one year -- a closely watched metric in the restaurant industry -- should increase in the mid-teen percentages, Niren Chaudhary told Reuters at the World Economic Forum's India summit.

"So 2011 is going to be a transformational year in which I personally expect that we will beat all of the metrics of 2010. So we will grow faster, we will build more stores and hopefully get more recognition for the brand," he said.

Other U.S.-based restaurateurs such as McDonald's ( MCD) and Starbucks ( SBUX) have also looked to international expansion as a means of boosting profits.

McDonald's said in December it plans to open 200 stores in China , growing its presence in the region by 40% over the next couple of years.

The Golden Arches said its investment will include opening new restaurants and updating existing stores. Among the new store openings, about half will be drive-through locations, McDonald's said.

Starbucks said last week it plans to expand in India , according to an alliance with Tata Coffee, announced in mid-January.

Under the terms of the deal, the pair will collaborate on sourcing and roasting green coffee beans in Tata Coffee's Coorg, India-based facility, as well as jointly exploring "the development of Starbucks retail stores in associated retail outlets and hotels."

"This memorandum of understanding is the first step in our entry to India," Schultz said. "We are focused on exploring local sourcing and roasting opportunities with the thousands of coffee farmers within the Tata ecosystem. We believe India can be an important source for coffee in the domestic market, as well as across the many regions globally where Starbucks has operations."

Starbucks also said recently it plans to grow its presence in China by 40% this year, opening 200 new stores in the country over the next three years. In November Starbucks said it plans to open 500 stores this fiscal year , 400 of which will be outside the U.S.

As in India, Starbucks also plans to grow coffee beans in China .

All its plans for international expansion led analysts from UBS to lift their price target on Starbucks shares, citing its global growth prospects.

McDonald's shares rose 1.6% Tuesday, thanks in part to an upgrade from analysts at RBC Capital Markets . Starbucks gained 0.8%.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Miriam Reimer.

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