McDonalds to sell controlling stake in China operations for $1.7B

OAK BROOK, Ill., Jan. 9 (UPI) -- McDonald's announced Monday it plans to sell its controlling interest in its business in mainland China and Hong Kong for $1.67 billion.

McDonald's will sell 80 percent of its holdings to Chinese state-backed conglomerate Citic Ltd., Citic Capital Holdings and U.S. private-equity firm Carlyle Group LP, according to the fast-food giant. McDonald's will retain the remaining stake.

Citic Ltd. and Citic Capital Partners will jointly own 52 percent and Carlyle will hold 28 percent.

The 20-year agreement is expected to close this summer.

About 65 percent of McDonald's 2,400 restaurants in mainland China are company-owned or operated. There are about 240 McDonald's in Hong Kong.

McDonald's plans to add about 300 restaurants annually over the next five years, mainly in smaller cities.

McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said the new partners better understand the Chinese market.

"It's going to be a commercially successful outcome for us," Easterbrook said. "We won't be putting capital into the market, but we will be part of the decision-making process."

Easterbrook noted "menu innovation" and digital technology are priorities for the new Chinese business.

The fast-food company has been attempting to reduce the number of company-owned restaurants worldwide.

Carlyle has invested more than $700 million in China Pacific Insurance in 2005 and 2007, a source told Bloomberg.

Last November, Yum Brands, which licenses the KFC and Pizza Hut brands, spun off its China division.
Allen Cone

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