UPDATE 1-Yum CEO sees 'very solid' 2013 China restaurant sales
NEW YORK, Dec 6 (Reuters) - David Novak, chief executive of Yum Brands Inc, said he was "very confident" the operator of KFC and Pizza Hut eateries would turn in "very solid" sales growth at established restaurants in China, its top market, next year.
Novak, who is also Yum Brands' chairman, said at an annual investor meeting in New York Thursday that he expects next year's same-restaurant sales in China to be stronger in the second half, after a softer first half.
Last week, the company warned that same-restaurant sales in China are expected to fall 4 percent in the fourth quarter, the first decline since 2009. China accounts for more than half of Yum Brands total revenue and operating profit.
Same-restaurant sales are an important gauge of performance for restaurant companies.
Novak said some of the fourth-quarter underperformance could be attributed to economic factors in China, which remains the world's fastest-growing economy even as economic activity has cooled over the past several months.
Yum shares were down 0.3 percent at $65.71 in morning trading Thursday. Just before the China performance warning, the stock closed at an all-time high of $74.74 on Nov. 29.