By Prerna Bedi
(Reuters) -Domino's Pizza Group Plc said on Thursday sales in the key holiday quarter were off to a positive start and the fast-food chain is pinning hopes on the FIFA World Cup to drive revenues further despite a squeeze on consumer finances.
The company, a franchisee of U.S.-based Domino's Pizza Inc, also reiterated its full-year profit expectation of 125-135 million pounds ($142.3-$153.6 million).
"I'm pleased that we have made a strong start to our important final quarter ... We're looking forward to our busiest weeks of the year with the men's football World Cup and the festive season to come," Interim Chief Executive Officer Elias Diaz Sese said in a statement.
Big-ticket sporting events have driven demand and sales for the company in the past - such as the Men's Euro soccer tournament last year.
The 2022 World Cup, which begins on Nov. 20, is expected to be watched by 5 billion people.
Like-for-like sales excluding VAT rates rose 10.4% in the first six weeks of the fourth quarter, ending on Dec. 25, the company said.
Its shares were up 2.8% at 251 pence by 1020 GMT after falling as much as 2% earlier.
The firm added that current-quarter sales were partly buoyed by its initial rollout on the food delivery platform Just Eat, which would now be made widely available, helping it reach more customers at a time when they face a deepening cost-of-living crisis.
Third-quarter system sales across its stores in the UK and Ireland fell about 8%, hurt by higher value added taxes and as fewer people ordered in, but overall sales were still above pre-pandemic levels.
The London-listed firm also announced a share buyback of 20 million pounds after it exercised an option to sell its investment in Germany and improve its cash position.
($1 = 0.8787 pounds)
(Reporting by Prerna Bedi and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Uttaresh.V)