April 28, 2020 / 9:34 PM / in 3 months

CORRECTED-Yum China sees sales getting better even as April same-store sales drop 10%

(Corrects executive title in paragraph 7 to chief financial officer, from chief executive officer)

April 28 (Reuters) - Yum China Holdings Inc said on Tuesday same-store sales were improving even while consumers still avoid going out in public to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Yum China said its month-to-date same-stores sales were down by more than 10%, still an improvement from the 15% decline it experienced in the first quarter ended March 31.

Shares of Yum China, the exclusive licensee of the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands in China, rose 7.7% in extended trading.

The coronavirus-led lockdown made major Chinese cities look like ghost towns as people avoided visiting restaurants, forcing Yum China to roll out contactless delivery and pickup at its KFC and Pizza Hut locations to curb falling sales.

Digital orders - including delivery, mobile orders and kiosk orders - accounted for 84% of sales at KFC and 65% of sales at Pizza Hut in the first quarter, an increase of 29 and 36 percentage points, respectively, from a year earlier.

Net income fell to $62 million or 16 cents per share, from $222 million or 57 cents per share, a year earlier.

However, Chief Financial Officer Andy Yeung said restaurant traffic is still below pre-outbreak levels.

"We expect an extended recovery period, and that the pace will be uneven across regions, dayparts and segments."

The rapid spread of the coronavirus prompted restaurants, including McDonald's Corp and hotpot chain Haidilao , to close temporarily or cut working hours to contain the spread of the virus and Yum China said about 99% of stores in China are either partially or fully open.

It also reaffirmed its plans to open 800 to 850 new stores in 2020. (Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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