The Korea Herald


[Newsmaker] McDonald’s Korea back on sale after six years

US fast-food giant the latest to join sales rush of burger chains here

By Byun Hye-jin

Published : June 12, 2022 - 16:11

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Signage outside a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. McDonald’s Korea is wholly owned by the US headquarters in Chicago. (Bloomberg) Signage outside a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. McDonald’s Korea is wholly owned by the US headquarters in Chicago. (Bloomberg)

McDonald’s Korea, the local unit wholly owned by the US fast-food giant, is seeking a new owner -- joining the latest burger chain sales rush here.

The company confirmed Friday that its US headquarters is selling its entire stake in the Korean unit as well as its business license after its first failed attempt six years ago.

According to news reports, Mirae Asset Securities, the deal’s lead manager, plans to send letters as early as next month to invite potential bidders.

With the addition of McDonald’s Korea, the largest fast-food chain by revenue here, four out of six major burger franchises -- including Burger King, KFC and Mom’s Touch -- are looking for new owners.

Hong Kong-based Affinity Equity Partners is selling Burger King Korea, along with the burger chain’s Japanese unit. Meanwhile, Korean chemicals conglomerate KG Group is seeking an exit after its five-year ownership of KFC Korea. Mom’s Touch, a home-grown chicken burger chain owned by private equity firm Korea F&B Holding, recently delisted from the nation’s second bourse Kosdaq in a move to search for a new owner.

Unlike the four, the remaining Lotteria and No Brand Burger are subsidiaries under retail giants Lotte and Shinsegae, respectively. 

The valuation of McDonald’s Korea is yet to be estimated, but market forecasts put it much higher than 2016’s 300 billion-500 billion won ($234 million-$469 million). Crosstown rival Burger King is currently valued at around 1 trillion won.

US private equity giant Carlyle Group is cited as one of the potential buyers of McDonald’s Korea. In 2016, when the company was put up for sale, Carlyle created a consortium with Maeil Dairies -- the nation’s leading dairy company -- but later backed out from the deal. After its failed attempt to take over the Korean unit, it acquired the Chinese and Hong Kong branches in 2017.

Along with the deal price, the US headquarters’ push to maintain its control over the Korean unit even after an exit could become a key factor in the acquisition talks. In 2016, the US head office insisted that it resume quality control of burger products and receive royalty payments from McDonald’s Korea, which evidently became another deal breaker.

According to data from the Financial Supervisory Service, the Korean unit has paid 54.3 billion won in 2021 and 50.1 billion won in 2020 in commission payments for the US headquarters.

Industry watchers say growing demand for premium burgers has led to heated competition in the market and an influx of newcomers. The food unit of Daewoo Development recently launched Good Stuff Eatery, a handcrafted burger chain frequented by former US President Barack Obama. BHC Group and Hanwha Solutions are poised to open Korean branches of Super Duper Burgers and Five Guys this year.

As of 2021, McDonald’s Korea operates 404 stores nationwide. It posted 867 billion won in sales, up 9.7 percent from a year earlier, while logging 34.9 billion won in net losses.