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Burger King plans big expansion in China

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[June 16, 2012]  NEW YORK (AP) -- Burger King is setting its sights on China.

The world's second largest hamburger chain says it will open 1,000 restaurants in the country over the next five to seven years. It's the largest multi-unit development deal in Burger King's history. There are currently just 63 Burger King restaurants in China.

McDonald's Corp. has more than 1,400 restaurants in the country.

Burger King, which has more than 12,500 restaurants worldwide, said Friday that its China expansion is a joint venture with the Kurdoglu family, which runs 450 Burger King restaurants in Turkey, and private equity firm Cartesian Capital Group.

The Kurdoglu family currently operates Burger King's largest international franchise.

It's just the latest international expansion deal for Miami-based Burger King at a time when the fast food industry at home is becoming increasingly crowded. Earlier this month, the chain announced plans to open several hundred new locations in Russia. It made a similar expansion deal with a franchisee in Brazil last year.

In the past year 80 percent of Burger King's new stores have been in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Burger King, which has seen its market share in the U.S. decline in recent years, was taken private by New York investment firm 3G Capital in late 2010.

The company has since been overhauling its operations. In the U.S. the company is focusing on modernizing restaurants. In April it launched its biggest menu expansion, which included fruit smoothies, snack wraps and salads.

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Soon after that the company announced plans to go public again this summer on the New York Stock Exchange.

McDonald's Corp. is also looking for revenue growth in emerging markets like China, where fast-growing populations offer enormous growth potential. The Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain plans to open 900 new restaurants this year, mainly in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Yum Brands Inc., owner of the Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC chains, has also been expanding abroad. In its first quarter, the company opened 168 new restaurants in China.

[Associated Press; By CANDICE CHOI]

Follow Candice Choi at http://twitter.com/candicechoi.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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