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UPDATE 1-Dunkin' Brands profit beats on lower expenses, raises annual forecast

forecast@ (Adds forecast, compares with estimates, details and background)

Oct 31 (Reuters) - Dunkin' Brands Group Inc reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit on lower costs on Thursday and raised its forecast for 2019, betting on investments to improve delivery and add new menu items to boost growth.

The company has been pushing into premium coffees that are sold at affordable prices compared with Starbucks Corp as it steps up to gain market share in an extremely competitive breakfast segment.

Besides pushing for speedy delivery and introducing new menu items, the company has also latched on to the plant-based meat trend that has taken over the restaurant industry by rolling out Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches.

The company, which also owns ice-cream chain Baskin Robbins, said it now expects adjusted earnings between $3.10 per share to $3.12 per share for fiscal 2019, better than its prior estimate of $3.02 to $3.05.

Still, sales at its U.S. Dunkin' stores open more than an year grew at a slower-than-expected pace, as it struggled to attract diners in a crowded breakfast and coffee market in the United States.

Comparable sales at Dunkin's U.S. stores grew 1.5% in the third-quarter ended Sept. 28, below the estimates of 1.7% rise, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

General and administrative expenses fell nearly 6% in the quarter.

Net income rose to $72.4 million, or 86 cents per share, from $66.1 million, or 79 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 90 cents per share, beating expectations by 9 cents. (Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)