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Want exposure to fast-growing China without the political risk and corporate governance problems? Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM) is your meal ticket.

Yum! Brands fast facts

Market Cap $19.2 billion

Revenue (TTM)

$11.1 billion

Earnings (TTM)

$1.1 billion


$545 million / $3.2 billion

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Yum! is the world's largest fast-food company, with more than 37,000 Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's, and A&W units spanning the globe. But although Yum! has a presence in more than 110 countries, I’m most intrigued by its operations in just one: Liechtenstein.

Just kidding! As you've likely guessed if you watched my video on Fool.com, it's Yum!'s Chinese operations that have whet my investing appetite.

Go east, Yum! Brands
The first foreign fast-food concept to enter China way back in 1987, Yum! has built a network of nearly 3,600 locations (mostly KFCs) in the country -- three times as many locations as second-place McDonald's (NYSE: MCD). Although Yum!'s recent U.S. performance has been stagnant, its Chinese operations have been firing on all cylinders. Over the past five years, revenue and operating income for Yum! China have roughly tripled, while those same metrics are down for its U.S. business. Check out the chart below to see why I’m so excited about Yum!’s Chinese opportunity:





Locations (as of June 12, 2010)




System sales growth (2009)




Restaurant margin (2009)




How chicken conquered China
Exporting a successful business model from the U.S. to China is no small feat -- as even juggernauts like eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) found out the hard way. But while those companies’ futures in China are still up in the air, there are two big reasons why I think Yum! will continue to make it rain in China.

1. Distributing more than wings
Unlike in the United States, where the company relies on third parties to route its food products, supplies, and equipment, Yum! owns and operates its Chinese distribution network. This gives Yum! a significant edge in securing low-cost supplies and establishing new locations in second-tier, or midsize, cities. Yum! can open new restaurants much faster than the competition, which has helped the company establish a presence in more than 650 Chinese cities (and counting).

2. A little local flavor
While companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) have struggled to adapt their menu to suit Chinese customers’ tastes, this is an area where Yum! shines. For example, in addition to its conventional fried chicken, KFC restaurants in China serve items such as preserved Sichuan pickle and shredded pork soup; Beijing duck wrap served with scallops and hoisin sauce; and congee, a Chinese-style porridge dish.

And Yum! isn't just serving Western-style fast food. In addition to its brands that are familiar to Americans, Yum! has also invested in two new restaurant concepts. East Dawning focuses on authentic Chinese fast food, and Little Sheep Hot Pot produces Mongolian-style hot pot dishes.

A value meal for investors
With about 3,600 locations, Yum! is the top dog in Chinese fast food, but management believes its concepts have plenty of room to grow. CEO David Novak claims that China can support 20,000 units, a greater than five-fold increase from current capacity. And while the company’s Chinese operations are the main attraction at the moment, Yum!’s operations in markets like India, Russia, Korea, and France also merit excitement. With stable recurring revenue from its mostly-franchised U.S. operations, decades of growth lying ahead in the international arena, and a tasty 2% dividend yield, Yum! Brands can satisfy the cravings of every investor.

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Rich Greifner does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. Google is a Motley Fool Inside Value and Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. eBay and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool has a disclosure policy.