April 27, 2015 / 12:22 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 2-Owner of Tim Hortons, Burger King posts strong 1st-qtr sales

(Updates with market reaction, additional details throughout, CEO comment from conference call)

April 27 (Reuters) - Restaurant Brands International Inc said on Monday its Burger King and Tim Hortons chains posted their strongest same-store sales performance in years in the first quarter, with customers lured in by popular menu items.

The company's stock rose more than 3 percent in early trading but later pared gains.

U.S. chain Burger King bought Tim Hortons for C$12.64 billion ($11.53 billion) in August, creating the world's third-largest fast-food restaurant group. The two chains are managed as separate brands under parent Restaurant Brands.

Tim Hortons, which had struggled with its U.S. expansion in previous years, is still looking to carve out new U.S. and global markets, Restaurant Brands said.

"There's no shortage of interest or partners around the world in ... expanding Tim's," Chief Executive Daniel Schwartz told analysts in a conference call.

"We have big goals for Tim Hortons both here and the U.S. and internationally, and we look forward to talking more about it in the coming quarters."

Stores at Tim Hortons open for 13 months or longer rose 5.3 percent during the quarter, the company said, driven by its dark roast coffee and crispy chicken club sandwiches as well as its new Philly steak and cheese panini.

This was Tim's best quarterly comparable store sales in three years.

At Burger King, it rose 4.6 percent, the best performance in nearly seven years. Sales were helped in part by the chain's "2 for $5" promotion and its spicy BLT whopper sandwich. Better U.S. weather compared to a year ago also drew more customers, executives said.

System-wide sales rose 8.1 percent at Tim Hortons and 9.6 percent at Burger King, on a constant currency basis.

Restaurant Brands, which has more than $1 billion in cash, said it was looking to pay down some of its debt in the coming quarters.

The company posted a net loss attributable to shareholders of $8.1 million, or 4 cents per share, for the three months ended March 31, compared with a loss of $514.2 million, or $2.52 per share, in the fourth quarter.

On an adjusted basis, the company reported a profit of 18 cents per share. Quarterly revenue more than doubled to $932 million from $416.3 million in the fourth quarter.

Shares have soared some 50 percent in Toronto since listing in December and was trading at C$51.58 around noon. The stock was trading at $42.65 in New York. (Reporting by Solarina Ho in Toronto and Anet Josline Pinto in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Jennings and Ted Botha)

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