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Yum Brands plans KFC makeover in China market

A man holds instant noodle packs in front of a KFC restaurant in Beijing October 23, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Yum Brands Inc's (YUM) fast food chain KFC is rewriting its menu and launching a publicity drive as it struggles to emerge from the shadow of a food safety scare in 2012 and see off rivals luring diners with innovative, home-grown fare.

The U.S. chain is planning an "unprecedented" overhaul to its China menu, will leverage Chinese celebrities in its publicity and revamp its store design and packaging, Yum said in a statement on Thursday. Yum gets more than half of its overall sales in China and plans to open 700 stores there this year.

KFC, Yum's key brand in the China market, has been hard-hit since official media reported that chicken it purchased had been fed excess antibiotics in late 2012. Revenues dipped, with China sales at established restaurants falling 4 percent during the fourth quarter of last year.

Sam Su, vice chairman of Yum Brands Inc, said in the statement the overhaul would involve new packaging, store designs and digital initiatives to help marketing and sales.

Yum, the largest fast-food chain in China with over 6,200 stores, has seen its market share held flat over the past five years, with around 41.2 percent in 2012, according to data from research firm Euromonitor.

U.S. rival McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) had around 14.7 in the same year.

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Stephen Coates)