KFC parent Yum pausing development in Russia, a key market

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A Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant is pictured in Tokyo, Japan, December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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NEW YORK, March 8 (Reuters) - Yum Brands Inc (YUM.N), parent company of fried chicken chain KFC, said it was pausing investment in Russia, a key market that helped the brand achieve record development last year.

Yum also said it was suspending operations of its 70 KFC company-owned restaurants in the country and finalizing an agreement to suspend all Pizza Hut restaurant operations in Russia, in partnership with its master franchisee.

Yum, which has at least 1,000 KFC and 50 Pizza Hut locations in Russia that are nearly all independent franchisees, said in a post on its website dated Monday that it had "suspended all investment and restaurant development in Russia while we continue to assess additional options."

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The restaurants are owned and operated independently through franchise agreements, meaning Yum does not have as much control as if it ran them itself but also has less exposure to financial and operational risks.

Last year was a record year of development for KFC, led by new restaurants opening in China, India and Russia, executives said during an earnings call on Feb. 9.

Overall, KFC international opened more than 2,400 gross units in 2021. In Russia, the company was opening about 100 new restaurants annually and had expected to continue "a similar expansion strategy going forward."

Many companies have begun to pull their business out of Russia amid sanctions and outrage over the invasion of Ukraine. Calls for more companies to follow suit are growing. read more

McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) said on Tuesday it would temporarily close all 847 of its restaurants in Russia including its iconic Pushkin Square location, increasing pressure on other global brands to pause operations in the country following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. read more

Major global brands, including PepsiCo Inc (PEP.O), have been pressured to withdraw from Russia by consumers and investors such as the New York state's pension fund.

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Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York and Jahnavi Nidumolu in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Porter and Anil D'Silva

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