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Burger King's profit soars in 4th-Q

MIAMI On the strength of movie promotions and longer operating hours, Burger King Holdings Inc. reported on Thursday a 42-percent rise in its fourth-quarter profit on revenue that rose 9 percent to $646 million.

The operator or franchisor of more than 11,5000 Burger King restaurants also recorded same-store sales surges of 5.3 percent globally and 5.5 percent in the United States and Canada.

Sales were driven by the chain’s movie tie-ins, including the Indy Whopper sandwich that was connected to the "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," officials said. In addition, Burger King in May began to extend its hours of operations, which it said bolstered traffic in the early morning daypart and late night.

For its latest quarter ended June 30, Burger King reported net income of $51 million, or 37 cents a share. Analysts on average had predicted earnings of 34 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial. In the year-ago quarter, Burger King earned $36 million, or 26 cents a share.

For the full year, the nation’s No. 2 burger chain behind segment leader McDonald’s recorded profit of $190 million, or $1.38 per share, on revenue of $2.46 billion. In fiscal 2007, the company posted profit of $148 million, or $1.08 per share, on revenue of $2.23 billion.

For the latest full year, Burger King opened 282 units, with positive net restaurant growth in the United States and Canada for the first time in six years, the company said.

Chairman and chief executive John Chidsey said Burger King experienced its best traffic performance in more than 10 years, despite challenging macroeconomic conditions. He reconfirmed the company’s ability to carry its momentum into fiscal 2009 and said the company expects per-share earnings to total between $1.54 and $1.59.

During the current first quarter of fiscal 2009, Burger King introduced its health-oriented kids' meal featuring the chain's new Apple Fries, which are skinless red apples sliced to resemble French fries. Last week, the company said sales of the Apple Fries have exceeded expectations by 85 percent, with more than 3 million servings sold in the product's first five weeks. Looking forward, Burger King said its promotions of Pokemon, Crayola and Neopets are expected to drive kids' meal sales.

Burger King said it would continue to focus on its breakfast and late-night business and would promote such products as the Cheesy Bacon BK Wrapper and the Cheesy Bacon Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich.

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