October 11, 2016 / 12:36 PM / a year ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Yum Brands to return $13.5 billion to shareholders by 2019

(Corrects paragraph 4 to say company bought back “$5.5 billion” of shares, not “$5.2 billion”)

Oct 11 (Reuters) - Yum Brands Inc, owner of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell, said it expects to return as much as $13.5 billion to shareholders by 2019 after the separation of its China unit.

Yum Brands’ shares were up 1.2 percent at $88.45 before the bell on Tuesday.

The company said it would increase franchise restaurant ownership to 93 percent, from 77 percent now, when the China business is spun off on Oct. 31. The company aims to be least 98 percent franchised by the end of 2018.

Yum said it had bought back about $5.5 billion of shares as a part of its previously announced capital return program of $6.2 billion, reducing its share count by about 16 percent.

The company also said it would reduce capital expenditure to about $100 million in 2019, from about $500 million in 2015.

Yum last week reported its first same-store sales drop in five quarters in China, blaming anti-U.S. protests after an international court rejected China’s claim to historic rights in the South China Sea.

Yum’s China business will begin trading on Nov. 1 on the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker symbol YUMC.

Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto

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