Analysts last week descended on Yum Brands in Shanghai with a volley of tough questions after billionaire investor Dan Loebsuggested the US fast-food chain consider hiving off its Chinese operations.
在亿万富翁投资者丹•洛布(Dan Loeb)建议百胜餐饮集团(Yum Brands)考虑剥离中国业务后，分析师上周在上海向这家美国快餐连锁集团抛出了一大堆尖锐问题。
The annual Shanghai investor conference, scheduled long before Mr Loeb’s intervention, came as the fate of the woe-laden China operations of the owner of KFC and Pizza Hut is uppermost in investors’ minds.
What Mr Loeb dubbed a play on a “unique open-ended middle-class growth story in China” is valued at $20bn-$22bn by analysts. But the view from the streets is rather less gung ho, with restaurants as likely to be stuffed with thrifty grannies as the upwardly mobile middle-class patrons referred to by Mr Loeb.
For the past quarter of a century, KFC was the gold standard for foreign brands among Chinese. But now its restaurants, especially in big cities, play host to grannies entertaining an only grandchild or elderly matchmakers running impromptu dating agencies alongside the more lucrative customers.
“I am tempted to say KFC’s best days in China are probably behind them. They are dealing with a lot of tough trends,” says James Roy, consumer analyst at China Market Research in Shanghai.
上海中国市场研究集团(China Market Research)消费行业分析师詹姆斯•罗伊(James Roy)表示：“我不得不说，肯德基在中国最好的日子很可能已经过去了。它眼下面对许多不利趋势。”
These challenges include rising labour costs and rents, labour shortages, changing consumer tastes and increasing competition. This suggests that Yum faces more structural problems than simply a blip caused by the recent food safety scandals .
“Yum China has recovered from previous downturns in its business. However, each time the recovery has taken longer and requires more marketing expenditure,” says Li Junheng of JL Warren Capital. “Yum’s challenges in China are mostly structural, rather than one-off. These structural issues are unlikely to disappear with financial engineering that focuses on expanding the stock multiple and ignores fundamentals.”?
“百胜中国从之前的多次业务低谷中走了出来。然而，复苏所花的时间和营销支出一次比一次多，”沃伦资本(JL Warren Capital)的李君蘅说。“百胜在中国面临的挑战大多是结构性、而非一次性的。靠一些推高股票估值倍数而忽视基本面的财务手段，不太可能解决这些结构性问题。”
KFC faces growing competition from innovative start-up fast-dining concepts. Mr Roy says “China is evolving away from that type of restaurant. They need to do something to remain relevant — and they aren’t doing it as well as, for example, McDonald’s.”
Yum recently reported a 12 per cent annual same-store sales decline in the first quarter and weaker margins. But Greg Creed, its chief executive, predicted a better second half to the year.
KFC’s decline comes at a time when foreign retail brands are struggling in China not just in the fast-food sector, but in many areas including supermarkets, electronics and home improvement retailing. Big international brands such as US retailers Best Buy and Home Depot have been forced to abandon China in recent years.
在肯德基走下坡路之际，不少外国零售品牌都在华遭遇了困难，不止是快餐业，超市、电子产品和家装零售等许多行业也是如此。近年来，美国零售商百思买(Best Buy)和家得宝(Home Depot)等大型国际品牌都被迫退出了中国市场。
But Sara Senatore, restaurant analyst at Bernstein, who attended the conference, sees a brighter future for Yum in China. “They appear to be recovering from the supply chain scandals.
“While they acknowledge the market has become more competitive ?.?.?.?because of the advantages they have always had here, scale, brand recognition and supply chain, there is every reason to believe they can retain their market share leadership,” she says.
Torsten Stocker, greater China retail partner at A.T. Kearney, the professional services firm, says it is too soon to predict the demise of one of the mainland’s most famous brands. “It is natural that a ‘market creator’ like Yum will have to work extra-hard to stay ahead of the competitors that it often spawns itself,” he adds.
咨询公司科尔尼(A.T. Kearney)大中华区零售业合伙人托尔斯滕•施托克尔(Torsten Stocker)表示，现在就预言一个在中国内地极为知名的品牌将走上末路还为时太早。他接着说：“像百胜这样的‘市场创造者’自然必须付出额外的努力， 才能一直领先于往往由它自己孕育出的竞争对手。”