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Hardcastle, Jubilant, Speciality, Moon Beverages, Lite Bite keen to partner McDonald’s


NEW DELHI: At least five leading restaurant and foods firms have either written to McDonald’s or evinced interest in the US burger chain’s north and east business as potential franchise partners, even as its prolonged legal battle with estranged partner Vikram Bakshi-led Connaught Plaza Restaurants Ltd (CPRL) continues.

Speciality Restaurants, which owns fine-dining brands Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta; Jubilant FoodWorks, which operates well known global brands Domino’s Pizza and Dunkin Donuts; and Coca-Cola’s largest Indian franchise bottler Moon Beverages are among those keen on partnering McDonald’s, said executives aware of developments. Bakshi is locked in a bitter battle with McDonald’s over a series of issues.

CPRL to Pursue Legal Recourse, Says Bakshi
These include termination of his licensee agreement.

The CPRL board, which met on Sunday, decided to pursue full legal recourse against the ‘illegal termination’ of the licence, said Bakshi.

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) will on September 21 hear Bakshi’s plea on the termination of his licence, along with McDonald’s’ petition against his reinstatement as managing director of CPRL. It remains to be seen whether McDonald’s will take a decision on appointing a new franchise partner before the cases are resolved.

Till some time back, HardcastleBSE -0.59 % Restaurants, which runs McDonald’s stores in the west and south, was seen to be the only contender for the north and east markets, according to market speculation. However, Amit Jatia, vice-chairman of Hardcastle Restaurants, has never commented on the issue.

Asked if Jubliant FoodWorks is interested to become the development licensee for McDonald’s in the north and east markets, the company said it “would not comment” on the matter.

Anjan Chatterjee, managing director of the listed Speciality Restaurants, said: “We would certainly be interested in the space which McDonald’s operates.”

Hardcastle, Jubilant, Speciality, Moon Beverages, Lite Bite keen to partner McDonald’s

Sanjeev Agarwal, chairman of Moon Beverages, Coca-Cola’s largest franchisee bottler, said he was interested in a McDonald’s partnership, considering the synergies between the two businesses. Coca-Cola is the exclusive beverage partner for McDonald’s. Moon Beverages is promoted by MMG Group, with interests in oil, gas, real estate and hospitality.

Lite Bite Foods, promoter of brands such as Punjab Grill and Asia Seven, had indicated last month that the company would look at a proposal if approached.

A McDonald’s India spokesperson said he would be unable to provide any information about the matter. “Details of the process are confidential. We have nothing to share at present,” he said.

In the past two months, McDonald’s has informed the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) that a settlement with Bakshi is “not possible.” Bakshi has countered that “it would take a miracle for any form of trust to be reposed in them (McDonald’s).”

Last week, the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) directed the appointment of experts to determine a fair and mutually agreeable valuation of the shares held by Bakshi in the joint venture, to enable the US chain to buy out Bakshi’s stake. On September 13, the London arbitrator had ruled that Bakshi sell his stake in CPRL to McDonald’s.

NCLAT had, last month, asked both sides to consider resolving the dispute between them. It ordered McDonald’s and Bakshi to decide by August 30 whether they would consider settling the dispute.

The US chain had terminated its agreement with equal joint venture partner CPRL on August 21, stating that CPRL would not be authorised to use the McDonald’s branding, trademark, design and marketing policy rights within 15 days of the termination notice, starting September 6. However, many of the 169 stores across the north and east region have been operating even past the deadline set by the termination notice.

The joint venture was first rocked by the dispute in 2013 when Bakshi was ousted as managing director. He was reinstated as managing director of CPRL by the National Company Law Tribunal last month, following which McDonald’s approached the appellate tribunal. McDonald’s sought arbitration in 2013-end after Bakshi took the chain to the Company Law Board following his termination as managing director of CPRL.

Source: Economic Times

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