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Haidilao founder steps down from CEO role as store count shrinks

(Source: Reuters)

China’s Haidilao, which operates a chain of hotpot restaurants, said its billionaire founder Zhang Yong has stepped down as CEO and will shift his focus to long-term strategy planning.

The move, which comes amid efforts by Haidilao to slash store numbers, has seen Yang Lijuan, 43, formerly deputy CEO and chief operating officer, take the helm as of March 1.

Li Yu, 36, was named COO of its mainland China operations while Wang Jinping, 38, was appointed COO of its operations in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and overseas.

Citi analysts said in a research note the appointments underlined the company’s commitment to overhauling management “via bringing forward its senior management transition to accommodate its aggressive store restructuring plan.”

Haidilao expanded store numbers aggressively in early 2020 but has since seen declines in table turnover rates and earnings. In November, it announced it would close 300 stores.

The company warned last week it expects to report a 2021 net loss of 3.8 billion yuan to 4.5 billion yuan ($600 million to $710 million), most of which is due to one-off losses from the closure of restaurants.

Zhang, 52, who was born in China’s Sichuan province but is now a Singapore citizen, will retain the title of chairman.

Shares in Haidilao were down 1.7 per cent in Wednesday morning trade compared with 0.9 per cent decline for the Hang Seng index.

  • Reporting by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, of Reuters.

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