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)