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Wells Fargo starts Burger King at "Market Perform"

The Associated Press

Wells Fargo analyst Jeff Farmer initiated coverage of Burger King Worldwide Inc. Friday, saying that he expects limited gains from the company's stock.

THE OPINION: Burger King, based in Miami, has been undergoing a revamp since it was purchased and taken private in 2010 by 3G Capital, a private investment firm run by Brazilian billionaires. The company has been selling more restaurants to franchisees, a move that lowers overhead costs. Instead of booking sales from those restaurants, that means Burger King collects franchise fees instead.

Farmer initiated coverage of the company Friday with a "Market Perform" or neutral rating, saying that its refranchising efforts should pay off for the company by improving its revenue and margins. But he said that he expects the company's sales at established stores to slow in 2013, and the recent pace of dividend increases to slow. He also expects the company's recently announced $200 million share repurchase authorization to go largely unused for the remainder of 2013.

The analyst said that Burger King's current stock price already reflects the company's forecasts for improved margins and earnings over the next two fiscal years.

The company did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

THE STOCK: Burger King's shares slipped 24 cents to $20.03 in midday trading, as the broader markets declined. The stock has been climbing steadily since September and is at the upper end of its 52-week trading range of $12.91 to $21.73.