Wendy's International Inc. (WEN), the No. 3 burger chain, reported an October same-store sales decline of 5.8 percent at U.S. company restaurants open at least 12 months, but backed its earnings growth expectations for 2004.

Wendy's said same-store sales, a key retail measure, fell in a range of 5.1 to 5.4 percent at its U.S. franchise units in the period ended Oct. 31.

The restaurant operator attributed lower sales at Wendy's company and franchised locations to increased competition and discounting. The company has seen sales pressured by a revitalized McDonald's Corp. (MCD), which has seen success with entree-sized salads and white-meat chicken strips that had previously given Wendy's an edge in the war among U.S. hamburger chains.

Wendy's said same-store sales for Tim Hortons (search) locations increased 6.1 percent to 6.4 percent in Canada and 9 percent in the United States.

"We are encouraged by the strong sales momentum at Tim Hortons in both the United States and Canada," said chairman and chief executive Jack Schuessler in a statement. "At Wendy's we remain focused on excellent restaurant operations and expect our sales performance to improve."

Wendy's said it still expects earnings per share growth of 7 percent to 10 percent for 2004, or $2.19 to $2.25 compared with a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call put the company's 2004 earnings at $2.22 per share, up from $2.05 per share last year.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.