Philippines' Jollibee buys 40 per cent stake in US burger chain

MANILA - The Philippines' leading fast-food giant Jollibee Foods announced yesterday that it has acquired 40 per cent of an upmarket US hamburger chain for US$99 million (S$138.3 million).

Jollibee said in a statement that it had acquired part of Denver-based Smashburger, which has 339 restaurants in the United States, Canada, the Middle East and South America.

This is the largest-ever acquisition by Jollibee and its biggest investment outside of the Philippines, the company said.

"This acquisition will make (Jollibee's) presence in the US more significant, going beyond the Filipino market and serving the mainstream consumers in the US$100 billion US burger market," company chairman Tony Tan Caktiong was quoted as saying.

Jollibee, which sells hamburgers, fried chicken and spaghetti, has overcome competition from major foreign fast-food chains to control the Philippine market, with more than 880 restaurants, including outlets in the US, the Middle East and South-east Asia.

It has already acquired several of its local rivals, including Chinese food chain Chowking and pizza chain Greenwich, and has joint ventures in other restaurant chains in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and South Korea.