McDonald’s bullish on China growth prospects as it boosts stake in local business By Reuters

McDonald’s bullish on China growth prospects as it boosts stake in local business By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The McDonald’s company logo stands on a sign outside a restaurant in Bretigny-sur-Orge, near Paris, France, July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

By Kane Wu and Granth Vanaik

(Reuters) -McDonald’s said it had struck a deal to ramp up its stake in its China business to just under 50%, expressing confidence in the burger chain’s growth prospects in the world’s second-largest economy.

The move contrasts sharply with the prevailing trend of multinational corporations reeling back investments in China or even exiting the market altogether due to geopolitical and economic challenges.

The deal to acquire investment firm Carlyle’s 28% holding in the burger chain’s China business, which also includes its stores in Hong Kong and Macau, will see McDonald’s (NYSE:) stake rise to 48%. A consortium led by state-backed conglomerate CITIC has controlling ownership with a 52% stake.

“We believe there is no better time to simplify our structure, given the tremendous opportunity to capture increased demand and further benefit from our fastest growing market’s long-term potential,” McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a statement on Monday.

Financial terms were not disclosed but two people with knowledge of the transaction said the deal values the China unit at around $6 billion.

That is far more than its valuation in 2017 when McDonald’s agreed to sell 80% of the business to CITIC, its investment arm CITIC Capital – now known as Trustar Capital – and Carlyle for up to $2.1 billion. At the time, the U.S. firm had wanted to pursue rapid expansion without using much of its own capital.

It is, however, less than the valuation of up to $10 billion that Carlyle and Trustar had at one point been seeking as part of efforts to establish a so-called continuation fund, different sources have previously said.

A continuation fund is a type of investment vehicle created by private equity firms that enables them to more easily sell down their stakes in existing investments.

The sources were not authorised to speak to media about the deal and declined to be identified. McDonald’s declined to comment on the valuation figure. Carlyle also declined to comment.

Since 2017, the number of McDonald’s stores in China has doubled to 5,500 and the country has become its second-largest market. The business aims to have more than 10,000 stores in China by 2028.

The business has also generated sales growth of more than 30% since September 2019, the company said in the statement.

McDonald’s made an unsolicited offer for Carlyle’s stake in the China operations in recent weeks and the deal was struck quickly, said the sources.

“Having a stronger investment position should give them a better voice in making sure that the growth that they expect out of that marketplace occurs,” said Jim Sanderson, an analyst at Northcoast Research.

Reuters reported in August that Trustar Capital was planning to raise a continuation fund that would allow the Chinese private equity firm to sell down its stake in McDonald’s China.

In contrast to McDonald’s, U.S. meat and processed food maker Tyson Foods (NYSE:) plans to sell its China poultry business, sources have said.

British consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser (LON:) in 2021 sold its China infant formula and child nutrition business to investment firm Primavera Capital for an enterprise value of $2.2 billion.

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