"Fourth quarter results marked a strong finish to a solid year. We achieved our 13th consecutive quarter of system sales growth since the spin-off, and our operating profit grew double digits," said Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China. "In 2019, we expanded our footprint with over a thousand new stores, setting a new record for Company annual store openings and further strengthening our leading market position. We continue to innovate and invest across multiple fronts to ensure an excellent customer experience, both online and in-store."
Ms. Joey Wat continued, "Looking into 2020, the coronavirus outbreak is a major public health situation in China. Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees and customers. We have implemented various preventative measures across our restaurants and other workplaces to help protect our employees and customers. We will continue to monitor this fluid situation and respond accordingly. Despite this challenge and disruption to our business, we remain confident in the long-term market potential in China. We are differentiated by our world-class development, operations and innovation capabilities, which drove our success in the past and will help sustain our growth for years to come."
Andy Yeung, CFO of Yum China, added, "Our solid profit growth and healthy balance sheet enabled us to return $442 million to shareholders in 2019 through dividends and share repurchases. Looking ahead, while it is difficult to fully ascertain the expected impact of the coronavirus outbreak at this time, we can reasonably expect it to materially affect our 2020 sales and profits. Commodity and wage inflation