By Maria Armental
Yum China Holdings Inc. is turning to its KFC leadership for its next chief executive, tapping the one-time president of KFC China to take the reins next year.
The announcement of the chief executive transition plan comes as the company, which was spun off from Yum Brands Inc. last year, declared its first quarterly dividend -- a 10-cent-a-share payment -- and expanded its stock-buyback authorization to $550 million from $300 million.
Shares rose 2% to $40.81 in after-hours trading.
The company said Joey Wat, president and operating chief of Yum China, will take over as CEO on March 1.
Current CEO Micky Pant will transition from his role to serve as a senior adviser for two years. He will become vice chairman on March 1.
The 46-year-old Ms. Wat joined Yum in September 2014 and was promoted to her current post in February. She joined the company's board in July.
Yum China, the exclusive licensee of Yum Brands in China, including KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, also reported a strong-than-projected 6% comparable sales increase during its third quarter, driven by a 7% improvement at KFC.
Yum was the first major Western fast-food company in China, opening a KFC near Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1987, and built the brand into the largest foreign-restaurant chain in the country.
Yum China said its profit for the quarter ended Aug. 31 rose 10% to $211 million, or 53 cents a share, and revenue improved 8% to $2.04 billion.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had projected Yum China would earn 57 cents a share on $1.98 billion in revenue.
The company, which targets 550 to 600 new locations this year, opened 129 restaurants during the quarter, bringing its total openings for the year to 352.
In a securities filing, Yum said Ms. Wat's base salary will increase to $1.1 million, from the current $750,000.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pant will be paid $1 million in cash or company stock, at his choosing, the company said.
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