JOLLIBEE Foods Corp. (JFC) is acquiring the majority stake in the fast-food brand’s master franchisee in Hong Kong to hasten its growth in what it considers an important market, the company said on Wednesday.

In a regulatory filing, the listed food service company said its Singapore-based unit Golden Plate Pte. Ltd. will purchase 60% of Meko Holdings Ltd. for $16.08 million from the franchisee’s shareholders, who will continue to own the remaining 40%.

“Hong Kong is an important market for Jollibee and an important part of JFC China’s strategy to elevate the Jollibee brand in a general population or mainstream market,” JFC said. 

“Hong Kong is renowned for its relationship with a vast variety of food and attracts both a strong base of local consumers and tourists,” it added. 

Once completed, the transaction will give JFC the controlling stake in the once 100% franchised market.

A share purchase agreement and shareholders’ agreement were signed by the transacting parties on April 5, “subject to fulfillment of agreed closing conditions.”

Golden Plate is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jollibee Worldwide Pte. Ltd., which is 100%-owned by JFC.

JFC said the group, as of end-February, operated 6,506 stores worldwide — 3,281 in the Philippines and 3,225 overseas. 

Outside the Philippines, it has 501 stores in China, 385 in North America, and 333 in Europe, the Middle East and other parts of Asia. It also counts 640 stores, mainly in Vietnam, under its SuperFoods group, plus 1,079 The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL) stores apart from 287 stores under the Milksha brand.

JFC said its largest brands by store outlets worldwide are Jollibee with 1,594, CBTL with 1,079, Chowking with 613, Mang Inasal with 571 and Highlands Coffee with 610.

Shares in Jollibee closed lower on Wednesday by 1.33% or P3.00 to end at P223.00 apiece. — Adrian H. Halili