Cheesecake Factory Expands to Middle East

CALABASA HILLS, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Cheesecake Factory ( CAKE) shares jumped Tuesday morning after the casual dining chain said it plans to open restaurants in the Middle East.

Cheesecake Factory said late Monday it entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with the Kuwait-based Alshaya group to build and operate 22 of its namesake restaurants over the next five years in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


The agreement also includes the opportunity to expand to other emerging markets such as North Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey.

"Our agreement with Alshaya provides us with another avenue for growth and will enhance our ability to continue delivering shareholder value," said CEO David Overton.

The news led analysts at Miller Tabak to upgrade Cheesecake shares to buy from hold, setting a $35 price target.

Cheesecake Factory shares gained 3.9% Tuesday morning to trade at $31.18.

A number of U.S.-based restaurant chains such as Yum! Brands ( YUM), McDonald's ( MCD) and Starbucks ( SBUX) have recently made announcements about expansion in emerging markets.

Last week Yum! said it plans to put restaurant chains Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Restaurants up for sale as it pushes to expand in international markets .

McDonald's said in December it plans to grow its presence in China by 40% this year, opening 200 new stores in the country over the next three years.

The Golden Arches said its investment will include opening new restaurants and updating existing stores. Among the new store openings, about half will be drive-through locations, McDonald's said. McDonald's currently operates more than 1,200 restaurants in China.

McDonald's Asia President Tim Fenton alluded in November to the company's plans to have more than 2,000 restaurants in China within the next four years.

McDonalds

McDonald's also plans to double its presence in South Korea within the next five years. That would bring McDonald's total presence in South Korea to around 500 restaurants.

Earlier this month Starbucks announced plans to expand in India through a non-binding memorandum of understanding with India's Tata Coffee. Under the terms of the deal the pair will collaborate on sourcing and roasting green coffee beans in Tata Coffee's Coorg, India-based facility, as well as jointly exploring "the development of Starbucks retail stores in associated retail outlets and hotels."

In November Starbucks said it plans to open 500 stores this fiscal year, 400 of which will be outside the U.S. The company's China chief, Jinlong Wang, said Middle Kingdom customers can expect to choose from over 1,000 Starbucks locations in the "near future."

As in India, Starbucks also plans to grow coffee beans in China.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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