LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Tricon Global Restaurants Inc. earned a net $151 million in the fourth quarter of last year, bouncing back from a loss a year ago, thanks to strong sales in its Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC restaurant chains.

The earnings, which were equivalent to 95 cents a share, compare to a loss of $363 million, or $2.39 per share, in the same period a year ago.

Both periods included gains and losses from an ongoing program to close or refranchise hundreds of underperforming restaurants. Without the effect of those sales, the company's earnings rose to $87 million in the fourth quarter compared to $44 million a year ago.

Quarterly revenues fell to $2.53 billion from $2.79 billion.

Investors, pleased that the company returned to profitability, boosted Tricon's shares $4.50, or 8.4 percent, to $58.25 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Sales at Pizza Hut and KFC were up 4 percent for the quarter and 9 percent at Taco Bell, partly on the strength of new products like its polular soft-tortilla Gordita, the company said.

But Tricon has closed 600 underperforming stores and sold about 1,400 others to company-operated units to franchisees.

Chairman Andrall Pearson said the company benefited from the introduction of several new products and marketing campaigns, including Taco Bell's chihuahua promotions and the animated Colonel Sanders at KFC. He also noted successful new products such as the Gordita at Taco Bell and The Edge pizza at Pizza Hut.

The restaurants were spun off from PepsiCo in October 1997.

For the year, Tricon earned $445 million, or $2.84 per share, compared to a loss of $111 million, or 73 cents a share, in 1997. Revenues were $8.47 billion, down from $9.69 billion.

Both periods included special charges from various writedowns and severance costs. Without the one-time items, Tricon earned $286 million, or $1.83 a share, in 1998 compared to $217 million, or $1.37 a share, in 1997.