US fastfood giant Yum! Brands has posted a 20% increase in first-quarter earnings, and raised its outlook for the full year.

The company, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, reported net income of US$142m, or 47 cents per share, for the first quarter to 20 March, compared to $117m, or 39 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

First-quarter revenues rose to $1.97bn from $1.80bn a year earlier. Systemwide same-store sales growth was 3%.

The company raised its full-year 2004 earnings guidance by 3 cents to at least $2.30 per share prior to special items and now expects reported earnings per share of at least $2.32.

"This reflects our confidence that we will once again exceed our 10% annual EPS growth target. Our estimate includes the impact of increased commodity inflation in the US, which has minimal effect on our largest and fastest growing division, Yum! Restaurants International," said CEO David Novak.

"In fact, international profits grew 36%, and system sales grew by 8% in local currency for the first quarter, and we anticipate once again opening at least 1,000 new system restaurants outside the US this year," he added.

Novak said second-quarter international system-sales growth will be adversely affected by the avian flu situation, but China sales trends have fully recovered and the company expect this key market to continue to report rapid growth in 2004.