Thursday, December 20, 2007

Burger King plots Asia expansion

Burger King (BKC.N: Quote, Profile, Research) is confident of beating its target of 15 percent net profit growth in fiscal 2008, as the world's top hamburger chain after McDonald's (MCD.N: Quote, Profile, Research) gears up to open 300 outlets across China in five years as part of an Asian expansion.

Chief Executive John Chidsey told Reuters the regional drive would help the company rake in half its revenue from non-U.S. markets in four to five years, as the burger chain returns to markets such as Japan which it pulled out of in the 1990s, pummeled by heated competition.

Non-U.S. markets contribute just a third of overall revenue for the company that invented the Whopper hamburger but is a perennial runner-up to McDonald's Corp.

"We will certainly do better than that. We are very comfortable with the guidance we have given for the year," Chidsey said in an interview on Thursday, referring to his target of 15 percent profit growth.

Analysts polled by Reuters Estimates expect net profit to grow around 18 percent to $177 million in the year to June.

Burger King Holdings Inc operated 11,290 outlets worldwide as of September 30 but is a bit player in an Asian fast-food arena dominated by McDonald's and KFC-operator Yum Brands (YUM.N: Quote, Profile, Research). It derives two-thirds of its turnover from the United States.

Now the U.S. restaurant chain intends to aggressively accelerate its expansion, especially into China, where its 10 outlets are vastly outnumbered by arch-foe McDonald's 800.

"Asia, certainly in the next two to three years, will become the most important and fastest-growing piece of our business," Chidsey said in Hong Kong, where he was presiding over the opening of an outlet.

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