China sovereign fund seeks control of Yum China


Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)

Report says the deal could value the company at up to $8 billion

A consortium backed by sovereign fund China Investment Corp has expressed interest in buying a majority stake in Yum Brands Inc’s China business, which runs more than 7,100 KFC and Pizza Hut eateries across the country, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

KKR & Co, a firm reported to be in the consortium, said in an e-mail to China Daily that it was “unable to comment on market speculation”.

The investor group, which also includes Baring Private Equity Asia, is conducting due diligence on the unit, the report said. A deal could value Yum China at $7 billion to $8 billion, Bloomberg quoted unnamed sources as saying.

Yum told China Daily: “We continue to make good progress since we announced the transaction separating Yum and Yum China into two powerful, independent, focused growth companies. We will provide updates on the transaction at appropriate times and we won’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

A majority purchase by the CIC consortium would give a domestic entity control of a leading fast-food chain in the Chinese market for the first time. Such a deal would also provide the Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum with cash that could be used to fund a dividend and its planned share buyback, as well as help reduce exposure to a business with shrinking market share.

The China-backed investor group is interested in buying as much as 100 percent of Yum China. Yum is considering all options, though it may still decide to pursue the sale of a minority stake or proceed with a previously announced tax-free spinoff of the business, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The company isn’t currently running a formal sale process.