UPDATE 1-Burger King eyes China expansion

Sat Jun 16, 2012 2:43am IST

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* Joint venture deal plans 1,000 restaurants in coming years

* Deal gives partners exclusive rights to expand in China

June 15 (Reuters) - Burger King Worldwide Holdings Inc said on Friday it plans to open 1,000 of its namesake restaurants in China over the next five to seven years under a newly-formed joint venture.

China is the world's fastest growing major economy and U.S. restaurant companies such as Yum Brands Inc, McDonald's Corp and Starbucks Corp each plan to build hundreds of restaurants there in the coming years.

Miami-based Burger King said the deal represents the largest multi-unit development agreement in company history. Its joint venture partners in the China deal are members of the Kurdoglu family, a long-time Burger King master franchisee, and Cartesian Capital Group, a global private equity firm.

The agreement gives the group exclusive rights to expand the Burger King brand in China from 63 units currently.

Burger King, which went private in October 2010 with its $3.26 billion sale to 3G Capital Management LLC, is scheduled to close its merger with a publicly held shell company this month. When the deal closes, its shares will begin trading.

Yum Brands is the largest U.S. restaurant brand in China, with more than 3,800 KFC restaurants and almost 700 Pizza Hut outlets. Yum executives, who are still building restaurants there, expect China's middle class to grow from about 300 million people today to 600 million in a decade.

McDonald's has more than 1,400 restaurants in China, which ranks as its third-largest market in the world. The Golden Arches is boosting investment in the country by 50 percent this year, when it aims to open as many as 250 new restaurants.

Starbucks has 570 shops in China and expects to have more than 1,500 by 2015.

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