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Burger King profits surge in fourth quarter; shares rise

Burger King profits surge in fourth quarter; shares rise
Burger King profits climbed in the fourth quarter of 2013 as the company moved toward a fully franchised business model. (Nick Ut / Associated Press)

Burger King reported Thursday that profits soared 37% in the fourth quarter as the company reduced costs and benefited from growth overseas and the popularity of new menu items.

The fast-food giant, which operates 13,600 restaurants in more than 90 countries, said it earned $66.8 million in the quarter, compared with $48.6 million in the same period the year before. Revenue for the quarter was $265 million, down $405 million, a result of the franchising of many company-owned restaurants.

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Shares of the Miami company were up 34 cents, or 1.3%, to $25.82 in morning trading in New York.

Burger King and other fast-food companies have been facing increasing competition from fresh, quick-service restaurants such as Chipotle. In response, Burger King introduced a number of new menu items, including reduced-calorie French fries called Satisfries and the Big King two-patty burger, which competes with McDonald's Big Mac.

In 2013, Burger King reduced the number of restaurants it owned from 418 to 52 as it moved toward a fully franchised business model. Chief Executive Daniel Schwartz said the company's profits will grow with the transition.

"2013 was an important year for Burger King Worldwide as we grew our brand presence around the globe and made significant progress towards achieving our long-term strategic goals," Schwartz said in a news release. "We completed our global refranchising initiative, fundamentally transforming our business model and putting restaurant operations into the hands of our experienced franchisees."

The company reported strong same-store sales numbers, as sales climbed 1.7% at restaurants open at least one year. Sales were particularly strong in Asia. In North America, the increase was just 0.2%.

Rival McDonald's said its sales figure declined 1.2% in the United States, while Wendy's reported a 3.1% increase.

Alex Macedo, the chain's president of North American operations, said the Satisfries introduction has helped overall fry orders rise.

"It's not a mainstream product, it doesn't have the broadest appeal, but it is a premium product and has had success," Macedo told the Associated Press. "People who were coming in and not ordering fries are now ordering fries."

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