Domino's Russian Arm Suspends Royalties But Pizza Outlets Remain Open

By Dave Simpson
Domino's Russian Arm Suspends Royalties But Pizza Outlets Remain Open

The Russian franchisee of global pizza chain Domino's has suspended royalty payments from its restaurants in Russia and will limit further investment in the country following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, it said on Friday 11 March.


DP Eurasia NV DPEU.L, the Netherlands-based independent franchisee of US firm Domino's Pizza Inc DPZ.N in Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, is Russia's third largest pizza delivery firm with 188 outlets, all of which remain open.

By contrast, a growing number of Western companies including McDonald's MCD.N, Starbucks SBUX.O and Pizza Hut, have shut some or all of their outlets in Russia.

Yum China Dives As US Regulators Take Issue With Audit

In other restaurant-related news, shares in Yum China 9987.HKYMUC.N and four other Chinese companies tumbled on Friday 11 March after they were ensnared in an auditing dispute between Beijing and Washington, though China's securities regulator said it was confident they could reach a deal.

Yum China Holdings, the owner of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurants in China, said it may have to delist from the New York stock exchange by 2024 after US authorities said it had failed to provide access to audit documents.

Its Hong Kong-listed shares fell as much as 12% on Friday 11 March, having closed 11% lower in New York.

Washington is demanding complete access to the books of US-listed Chinese companies, but Beijing bars foreign inspection of working papers from local accounting firms - a long-simmering auditing dispute that puts hundreds of billions of dollars of US investments at stake.

In December, the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) said it had identified 273 companies that were at risk, without disclosing names. It named five of these firms including Yum China for the first time this week.

Shares of other Chinese companies identified by the SEC, including BeiGene Ltd 6160.HKBGNE.O, ACM Research Inc ACMR.O, Zai Lab Limited ZLAB.O and HUTCHMED (China) Limited 0013.HKHCM.O also tumbled on the news.

In an apparent attempt ease investor panic, China's securities regulator said on Friday 11 March that it was confident it would reach an agreement with US counterparts to solve the dispute.

"We always adhere to the spirit of openness and cooperation, and are willing to resolve the issue...through regulatory cooperation," the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said in a statement early on Friday 11 March, calling the latest SEC statement "normal procedure."

The CSRC and China's Ministry of Finance have recently been in continuous communication and dialogue with the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), and "have made positive progress," it said.

Separately, two sources with direct knowledge of the talks told Reuters on Friday 11 March that the discussions were proceeding smoothly.

"The next step for both parties is to continue to advance in depth on more details," said one source. The other source said a consensus was expected "as soon as possible."

Seeking Solutions

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Tech Index .HSTECH fell as much as 9% on Friday 11 March, before recouping some losses to close down 4.3%.

BeiGene, whose shares fell 4.9% in Hong Kong and 6% in New York, said in a filing that it was seeking solutions.

ACM Research said it was looking for solutions and Zai Lab that said its inclusion "will not materially impact operations." HUTCHMED did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Linus Yip, chief strategist at First Shanghai Group, said the SEC move was not totally unexpected, but investors' reaction was understandable given heightened geopolitical tensions.

"The atmosphere now is bad. We have Sino-US frictions, the Ukraine crisis, prospects of rate hikes and more," Yip said. "So it's natural for investors to look on the dark side."

Bruce Pang, an analyst at China Renaissance, said the main reason the five companies were identified by the SEC was that they were the first few companies that already filed their 2021 annual reports.

"However, this list has returned delisting risk to the forefront, as regulators look to proceed step by step with stricter requirements on disclosure and compliance."

The SEC has given these companies until March 29 to submit evidence to dispute their identification.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.