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KFC parent Yum sticks with 2014 profit forecast

By Lisa Baertlein

Feb 3 (Reuters) - KFC parent Yum Brands Inc on Monday reaffirmed its 2014 profit forecast amid worries about a resurgent bird flu in China, its top market for sales.

Yum forecast earnings per share growth of at least 20 percent for 2014. Many analysts had worried that the recent return of bird flu, which depressed demand for chicken in China last year, would hit Yum's business hard.

Yum earned $321 million, or 70 cents per share, for the fourth quarter, compared to $337 million, or 72 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items related to its Little Sheep investment, retired debt and other factors, fourth-quarter earnings were 86 cents per share.

China sales at established restaurants fell 4 percent during the fourth quarter as it continues to recover from the after-effects of a food safety scare and avian flu.

China sales results included an estimated decline of 4 percent at KFC and 5 percent growth at Pizza Hut Casual Dining.

The fast-food operator gets more than half of its overall sales in China, where most of its more than 6,200 restaurants are KFCs.

Shares of Yum rose 3.2 percent to $68.30 in extended trading.