WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Fast-food franchisor Restaurant Brands reported sales at its 138 Pizza Hut stores were up strongly in the first half of the year.

According to a news release, sales for the 32 weeks ended Sept. 8 at its 89 New Zealand units were NZ $44.9 million (U.S. $26.3 million), up 9.1 percent. Same-store sales during the period were 7.6 percent above the comparable period last year.

In its 49 Victoria, Australia, outlets, total sales for the 16 weeks ended Sept. 8 (since these stores were acquired in 2002, there is no comparable sales information for the half year) were NZ $9.3 million (U.S. $5.5 million), up 4.7 percent on the prior-year's quarter. Same-store sales for the period were up 12.1 over the same period in 2002.

The company credited its Stuffed Crust pizza promotion, store upgrades and continued improvements in operating standards as drivers of the sales recovery.

Overall, Restaurant Brands, which also franchises KFC and Starbucks stores, saw its profits fall, though the release didn't specify by how much. However the company did attribute the losses to increased operating costs.

On news of the profit decline, Restaurant Brands' stock price tumbled on Sept. 15 NZ $1.27, down 4 cents (U.S. 74 cents and 2 cents respectively).

Read related Restaurant Brands/Pizza Hut stories ...
* ANALYSIS: Will Yum! Brands' multibrand strategy help or hurt Pizza Hut?
* Domino's Pizza lands in New Zealand, ignites price war
* Restaurant Brands boss steps down
* Aussie Pizza Hut sales drag down Restaurant Brands' Q1 '03 numbers
* New Zealand Pizza Hut sales boost Restaurant Brands' fiscal '02
* Positive Pizza Hut sales drive Q4 sales at Restaurant Brands
* Restaurant Brands' stock slide blamed on Domino's Pizza's arrival

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