May 13, 2010 / 1:23 PM / in 8 years

UPDATE 3-Tim Hortons profit climbs on strong Canadian sales

* Q1 EPS C$0.45 vs C$0.37 year ago

* Revenue up 4.8 pct at C$582.6 mln

* Canadian same store sales 5.2 pct higher

* Stock 3.3 pct higher at C$35.48 on TSX (Adds analyst comments, updates stock price)

By Susan Taylor

OTTAWA, May 13 (Reuters) - Tim Hortons THI.TO THI.N posted an 18.7 percent jump in quarterly profit on Thursday, surpassing expectations, helped by booming sales at its Canadian coffee shops.

The company, which unveiled an aggressive North American expansion plan earlier this year, credited new menu offerings and higher prices for bigger average customer bills.

Shares of the Oakville, Ontario-based restaurant chain were up more than 3 percent on Thursday.

Sales at Canadian restaurants open more than a year rose 5.2 percent, well above the 3.5 percent expected by several analysts. Operating income rose 14 percent to C$132.4 million ($129.8 million).

In contrast, same-store sales in the United States rose 3 percent and the region posted an operating loss of C$300,000.

“It is too early to put a real value on the U.S. operations. We need to see consistent, profitable growth before we give it a valuation,” said Candice Williams, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity in Vancouver.

Williams is one of six analysts with a “hold” rating on Tim Hortons, out of a total of 12 following the firm. She has a share price target of C$35.

Tim Hortons also announced plans to build a C$45 million replacement distribution center in Kingston, Ontario, that will serve more than 650 restaurants. The company will spend about C$20 million in 2010 on the center, which will be operating in the second half of 2011.

The company said it expects to complete a private bond offering of C$200 million to C$250 million in Canada in the second quarter. It will use the money to refinance a portion of its C$300 million term loan and for general corporate purposes.

It also said it is in talks with its joint venture partner, IAWS Group Inc, on the ownership structure of Maidstone Bakeries — the maker of its doughnuts and popular Timbits. They expect to reach an agreement by year-end.

First-quarter earnings rose C$78.9 million, or 45 Canadian cents a share, up from C$66.4 million, or 37 Canadian cents, a year earlier.

A lower tax rate helped lift profit, while a 2.6 percent decline in its share count from a buyback program flattered earnings per share, the company said.

Revenue rose 4.8 percent to C$582.6 million.

Analysts on average had expected earnings of 43 Canadian cents a share and revenue of C$542.3 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In March, Tim Hortons said it planned to open 900 stores in North America over the next three years, with some 300 outlets in the United States, increasing its total there by more than 50 percent.

As of April 4, Tim Hortons had 3,029 restaurants in Canada and 567 in the United States.

Shares of the company rose C$1.13 to C$35.48 on the Toronto Stock Exchange and $1.06 to $34.70 in New York.

$1=$1.02 Canadian With additional reporting by Scott Anderson in Toronto; editing by Rob Wilson

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