Shares of Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM) touched a new life-time high of $54.98 on Thursday. The company's first quarter revenue exceeded Street view boosted by growth in China, which helped offset weakness in its U.S. operations.

The Louisville, Kentucky-based parent of the KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut fast-food chains posted first quarter earnings of $264 million or 54 cents a share, up from $241 million or 50 cents a share last year.

The company decided to sell its Long John Silver's and A&W All American Food brands during the first quarter. As a result, it recorded a non-cash pre-tax charge of $66 million related to the impairment of intangible assets. Excluding special items, adjusted earnings were 63 cents a share, up from 59 cents a share last year.

Revenue for the first quarter rose 3 percent to $2.43 billion. Analysts had expected profit of 64 cents a share on revenue of $2.40 billion. Company sales grew 3 percent to $2.05 billion, while franchise and license fees and income rose 7 percent to $374 million.

Division-wise, revenue from China grew 28 percent to $906 million, while same-store sales rose 13 percent. China Division includes solely the results of the company's operations in mainland China. The company opened 92 new restaurants during the first quarter in mainland China.

Revenue from the company's U.S. division fell 9 percent to $853 million, while same-store sales declined 1 percent, including an increase of 1 percent at KFC, flat sales at Taco Bell and a decline of 3 percent at Pizza Hut.

Taco Bell began the year with strong sales momentum and grew same-store sales 4 percent in the first period of the quarter. However, due to false claims made about the food quality that resulted in negative publicity, the company saw a significant reversal in sales trends.

On April 18, the law firm for the plaintiff that initiated those false claims has voluntarily withdrew its class action suit against the company without any payments to the plaintiffs, and without any changes to Taco Bell's products or advertising.

Yum! Restaurant International division's total revenues for the quarter fell 5 percent to $666 million, while system sales excluding foreign currency translation rose 6 percent. System sales growth of 6 percent was driven by new unit development and a 2 percent increase in same-store sales.

Looking forward, Yum! reconfirmed full year 2011 earnings per share growth of at least 10 percent, excluding special items. The company said its international performance and trends are strong, and new unit development is robust. The company also said the combination of near-term weak sales at Taco Bell and higher food inflation should make the second quarter its most challenging of the year in the U.S.

Our international performance and trends are strong, and new unit development is robust. We expect the continued strength of both our China and Yum! Restaurant International businesses to overcome a challenging year in the U.S., and that 2011 will be the tenth consecutive year we achieve our annual target of at least 10 percent EPS growth, said David Novak, Chief Executive Officer of Yum! Brands.

Yum! Brands stock gapped open sharply higher April 21 at $54.65 compared to previous day's close of $51.55. The stock touched a new all-time high of $54.98 on Thursday.

The stock closed Thursday's regular trading up 4.07 percent at $53.65 on the NYSE with a volume of 7.43 million shares. The stock has grown from $8.09 on August 31, 1997 to $53.65 on April 21, 2011. The stock traded between $37.54 and $54.98 during the past 52 weeks.