Sales Up at Wendy's

Wendy's International said on Friday sales at company-owned restaurants open at least 15 months rose 3.1% in the fourth quarter, helped by demand for the chain's new Double Melt cheeseburgers.

At franchised Wendy's restaurants, same-store sales rose 2.7%.

The company also posted a 6.1% same-store sales increase at company owned restaurants in December, the best month in 2-1/2 years for Wendy's, which is battling with larger rivals McDonald's and Burger King Holdings in the U.S. burger market.

Wendy's has relied on promotions of items like a 99-cent junior bacon cheeseburger and new products like the Double Melt cheeseburger to help lift sales, which have improved in the past three quarters after a same-store sales drop of 4.8% in the first quarter.

"We expect to see similar quarterly sales results in the coming year and anticipate a strong start in 2007," Kerrii Anderson, chief executive officer, said in a news release.

Wendy's has already said beef costs were about 4% lower in the 2006 fourth quarter, compared with the year-earlier quarter and that it also expects to realize $5 million to $6 million in additional interest income in the period.

But the company also expects higher expense for performance-based compensation in the quarter, $4 million in pretax expenses for its test of a breakfast menu and $4 million to $8 million in pretax charges for restaurant closures.