Jollibee targets foreign expansion, acquisitions after COVID losses

CEO Ernesto Tanmantiong now expects half of sales to come from outside of the Philippines by 2025.

Jollibee Foods Corporation is looking toward foreign expansion and “opportunities” created by COVID-19 as it rebounds after its first annual loss in at least three decades.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Jollibee CEO Ernesto Tanmantiong said the Philippine conglomerate plans to open 450 restaurants around the world this year whilst looking for acquisitions that could be funded with the company’s 57.5 billion pesos (US$1.2 billion) in cash and short-term investments.

“There are opportunities coming out of the pandemic,” he said. “We are constantly assessing these opportunities.”

Around 80% of 2021’s new stores will be overseas and “equally split” amongst China, North America and Southeast Asia, Tanmantiong said. By 2025, he expects half of Jollibee’s sales will come from abroad — a goal the pandemic pushed back by a year or two.

58% of sales came from the Philippines at the end of 2020.

“We are now in expansion mode in preparation for the full recovery from the pandemic and this will continue in the next few years,” Tanmantiong said. “We are investing more in foreign markets especially in markets where they have recovered fast from the pandemic.”

Jollibee has spent P7 billion on what it calls a “business transformation” to counter the impact of the virus, including upgrades to its delivery and online sales platform. It posted a P11.5 billion net loss last year as dining out was impacted by movement restrictions.

Jollibee closed 486 stores in 2020, but also opened some new ones, and overall had 147 fewer open at the end of last year compared to the end of 2019. At the end of last year, Jollibee had more than 5,800 outlets in 33 markets globally.

Tanmantiong added he plans to bring back Jollibee’s earnings and growth to pre-pandemic levels by 2022, and double its organic business in four to five years.

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