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Burger King rating upgraded by S&P analyst

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Standard & Poor's analyst on Wednesday lifted Burger King Worldwide Inc.'s credit rating, citing the hamburger chain's reduced debt and profit growth.

THE OPINION: Analyst Charles Pinson-Rose said Burger King's operating trends have improved this year, with a key sales figure showing healthy growth. He also noted that the Miami-based company has struck deals to expand in emerging markets and has reduced corporate overhead costs.

Although sales trends will likely moderate, Pinson-Rose said he expects meaningful profit growth to continue.

He said the business risk is "fair," given the competitive nature of the fast-food industry and its vulnerability to economic conditions. He raised Burger King's corporate credit rating to "B+," which is four notches below investment grade, from "B." The outlook is stable.

Earlier this month, Burger King said its net income rose 60 percent in the second quarter as it slashed costs and launched a major menu expansion. Revenue at restaurants open at least a year rose 4.4 percent. That metric is a key gauge because it strips out the impact of newly opened and closed locations.

Burger King went public on the New York Stock Exchange in June. It had been purchased and taken private by the investment firm 3G Capital in late 2010.

THE STOCK: Burger King shares rose 25 cents to close at $14.40.