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百胜餐饮分拆中国业务不会成为一种趋势

Scott Cendrowski 2015年10月26日

肯德基和必胜客的母公司百胜餐饮集团日前宣布将分拆中国业务,但这不太可能代表一种趋势。首先,百胜的特许经营模式有其特殊性。其次,其他在华外企,比如大众汽车和苹果,并没有独立运营的中国公司。

    百胜餐饮集团计划分拆其步履蹒跚的中国业务。这种做法是否会引领一种趋势,或者,它只是迫于几位关心短期收益的激进投资者的压力而作出的一次性决定?

    要回答这个问题,我们必须考虑百胜在中国的地位,以及通过将中国业务单独上市,这家公司可以获得怎样的回报。中国业务占百胜餐饮年收入的一半以上,去年差不多为公司贡献了半数营业利润。

    先来谈谈百胜将获得怎样的回报:今年早些时候,卡尔·伊坎的门徒,激进投资者基斯·梅斯特与著名的对冲基金活动家丹尼尔·勒布,几乎同时购买了百胜餐饮的股票。梅斯特表示,分拆可使百胜股价上涨16美元。梅斯特对路透社表示:“分拆两项业务将给股东提供一种选择,获得一种类似于增长型年金保险的特许经营权现金流,以及在一个消费群体日益增长的国家领先的餐饮理念。”过去两年来,百胜的中国业务一直陷于困境,并被视为百胜餐饮股价低迷的主要原因。按照梅斯特的思路,分拆中国业务之后,投资者将给予该公司其他业务更高的估值。

    尽管高盛分析师对于此次分拆能够释放价值持持怀疑态度,但交易员们似乎站在了梅斯特一边,分拆计划发布后,百胜股价上涨近2%。

    其次需要指出的是,百胜餐饮在中国已经不复往日辉煌。

    百胜的销售收入在过去两年停滞不前,这几乎完全是咎由自取。去年,食品供应商福喜集团被指控向麦当劳、肯德基、星巴克和其他在中国的西方连锁企业供应过期肉。此次食品丑闻令中国的肯德基和必胜客(百胜旗下的塔可钟尚未进入中国)遭到沉重打击。在此次丑闻当中,作为中国最大的外国快餐连锁,肯德基备受指责——并不冤枉。咨询公司Collective Responsibility 的创始人、上海中欧国际工商学院可持续发展客座教授理查德·布鲁贝克当时向笔者表示,百胜餐饮在中国有1000多家肉类供应商。众所周知,中国的食品安全检验效率低下。布鲁贝克批评百胜餐饮和其他西方连锁企业,未能保证其供应商遵守规定。他表示:“如果你知道政府难以有效履行监管之责,企业应该自己进行监管。”丑闻爆发之后,百胜餐饮不再使用福喜集团供应的原料,并在一份声明中表示:“我们绝对不能容忍供应商违反政府法律法规的行为。”

    事实上,这并非肯德基第一次在国外市场遭遇棘手的情况。例如,在南非,肯德基在消费者提出要求之后,才使用自由放养的鸡。

    百胜中国最近还宣布了CEO苏敬轼退休之后的接替人选。苏敬轼将肯德基发展成中国最大的西方连锁餐厅。北京的咨询师认为他是中国最好的经理人。

    因此,我们完全可以认为,百胜餐饮在中国已经不复往日的光彩。《华尔街日报》表示,在2003年,曾有一位高管形容中国“对我们来说绝对是一座金矿。”

    但许多公司的在华业务都受到了中国经济下行周期的影响。例如,作为耐克最大的成长市场,中国市场通常为该公司创造大约10%的收入。但在2013年,耐克却在中国经历了糟糕的一年,因产品款式陈旧,库存大量积压。近两年的大部分时间,耐克在中国的销售情况都没有好转,在最热销的地区曾经出现过连续三个季度销售额负增长的局面。后来,耐克修改了产品款式,大中华区又重新成为各大区域中增长最快的市场。

    耐克与百胜的区别在于,快餐业本质上是一种特许经营业务,也正是由于这个原因,我们才认为百胜餐饮的分拆决定并不代表一种趋势,而只是一家公司的特殊情况。在美国,麦当劳、肯德基、塔可钟和其他快餐公司,并没有把资金投入到成千上万家餐厅当中,而是采用收取特许经营权使用费的方式。百胜此次分拆也是基于同样的理念:整个百胜中国业务仍将按照某种大型特许经营业务的模式运行。也就是说,百胜餐饮的主要收入源泉仍然是特许经营权使用费,尽管该公司并未公布具体数字。

    分拆之后,百胜餐饮的股东们或许不需要承担中国市场的风险,但如果中国业务能恢复元气,他们从中国业务获得的好处也将减少。肯德基用超过一年时间改进中国餐厅,尽管肯德基不再像上世纪90年代那样令人兴奋,但中国中产阶层依旧将它视为不错的用餐场所。

    这就是西方公司不太可能效仿百胜分拆计划的一个原因。另一个原因是,尽管大众汽车、通用汽车和苹果等公司的中国业务也占其总收入的很大一部分,但不同于百胜餐饮,这些企业并没有独立运营的中国公司。(财富中文网)

    译者:刘进龙/汪皓

    审校:任文科

    Is Yum Brands’ planned spin-off of its stumbling China business the beginning of a trend, or a one-off move by a company under pressure from a couple activist investors concerned with short-term gains?

    To answer the question, you have to consider the position that Yum is in, and what it is getting in return for listing its China business–a business responsible for over half its annual revenues and, last year, almost half its operating profit.

    First, what it is getting in return: One of the activist investors, Keith Meister, a Carl Icahn protégé who bought shares earlier this year around the same time as noted hedge fund activist Daniel Loeb, says the spinoff could boost Yum’s stock price by $16 a share. “The separation of these two businesses gives shareholders the choice to own a growing annuity-like franchise cash flow stream, as well as the leading restaurant concept in a country with the fastest-growing consumer class,” Meister told Reuters. The China business has been struggling over the past couple years and been seen as weighing down Yum’s share price. Slice off the China business, Meister’s thinking goes, and investors value the rest of the business higher.

    Nevermind that analysts from Goldman Sachs are skeptical that the deal unlocks any value. Traders seemed to be on Meister’s side yesterday, sending the stock up almost 2% on the spinoff news.

    Second: What is Yum’s position in China? Not as strong as it used to be.

    Sales have stagnated the last two years for reasons almost entirely the fault of Yum. KFC and Pizza Hut locations in China (Taco Bell isn’t in the country) were hit last year by a food safety scandal after food supplier OSI Group was accused of sending expired meat to McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks, and other Western chains in China. Being the largest foreign fast food chain China, KFC received a lot of heat in the coverage of the scandal, and deservedly so. At the time, Richard Brubaker, founder of consultancy Collective Responsibility and adjunct professor of sustainability at the China-Europe International Business School in Shanghai, told me that Yum had more than 1,000 meat suppliers in the country. China’s food safety inspections are notoriously weak, so Brubaker blamed Yum and others for not ensuring their suppliers were following the rules. “If you know the government is not up to par, it’s on you,” he told me. After the scandal broke, Yum stopped using the supplier and said in a statement, “We will not tolerate any violations of government laws and regulations from our suppliers.”

    It’s not as if KFC didn’t have experience in tough foreign markets: In South Africa, for instance, KFC only uses free-range chickens after customers demanded it.

    The Yum China business also recently replaced a retiring executive, Sam Su, who built KFC into the biggest Western chain in China. Consultants in Beijing consider Su the country’s best executive.

    So it’s fair to say Yum has lost some of its sparkle in China, a place an executive called “an absolute gold mine for us” in 2003, the WSJ notes.

    But down cycles hit any business operating anywhere. Nike, for instance, which earns 10% of revenues in China and counts the country as its biggest growth market, went through a terrible stretch in 2013 when huge inventory surpluses resulted from stale styles. Sales didn’t rise for the better part of two years, including a three-quarter stretch of negative sales growth in its hottest region. Nike revamped its styles, and now the Greater China market is back to posting the top growth among its biggest regions.

    The difference between Nike and Yum, and the reason Yum’s announced spinoff is less a trend than company-specific, is that fast food is at its heart a franchise business. Instead of sinking capital into tens of thousands of stores, McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell and others charge franchise royalties in the U.S. The same concept is behind the spinoff: The entire Yum China business will still function as a kind of massive franchise, sending an as-yet-unannounced royalty back to Yum.

    After a spinoff, Yum stockholders may not experience the risks of China’s market, but they’re also less leveraged to the China business’s comeback, should it happen. KFC has spent more than a year improving its restaurants in China, which are still considered nice places to eat, if not as exciting as they were in the 1990s, by middle-class Chinese.

    That’s one reason Western companies are unlikely to follow Yum’s decision. Another is that Volkswagen, General Motors, and Apple, which receive a large portion of their revenues from China operations, don’t have China operations that can function as separate companies like Yum’s can.

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