Chinese top hotpot chain’s overseas unit sees profit this year

By Chen Lin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The overseas unit of China’s biggest hotpot chain Haidilao expects to return to profit this year, after posting almost 80% year-on-year growth in revenue for 2022 late on Thursday.

Haidilao International Holding’s overseas unit, Super Hi International Holding, posted revenue of $558.2 million and a net loss of $41.3 million for 2022, compared with a loss of $150.8 million in 2021.

“We have significantly narrowed our loss. Overall, we are satisfied with our performance in 2022, and optimistic with this year,” Zhou Zhaocheng, 50, CEO of Haidilao’s overseas unit told Reuters in an interview.

“There’s opportunity to return to profit this year… we are hopeful,” he said.

Originally founded in Sichuan Province of China in 1994, Haidilao now operates more than 1,300 stores across China, offering a communal dining experience where patrons cook plates of meat and vegetables in a soup at the centre of their table.

Overseeing all Haidilao restaurants outside of Chinese territories, Zhou attributed his optimism to the relaxation of COVID-19 curbs and the opening of new stores.

“The crowds and spending seen during festive seasons like Christmas and new year have already returned to pre-COVID levels,” Zhou added.

The fastest growth was seen in the Southeast Asian market.

Haidilao will open its first store in the Philippines this year, Zhou said.

Haidilao currently has 114 stores overseas, including a new store opened in Dubai this month, its first venture into the Middle East market.

The pace of opening new stores overseas this year would be similar to last year, when 17 new stores were added, Zhou said.

“We are prudent about opening new stores,” he said, adding it was a hard lesson learnt from 2020, when the company had opened more than 400 new restaurants across China and some in overseas markets, but had to shut more than 200 stores shortly afterwards to minimise losses.

Haidilao International Holding carved out its overseas units to form Super Hi International Holding and listed it in Hong Kong in December.

The move was in the interest of shareholders, according to Zhou, as the pace of development for Haidilao in China and overseas markets is different.

“It takes 10 years to sharpen a sword,” Zhou said, referring to the opening of its first overseas store in Singapore in 2012 and having enough confidence to list the overseas unit last year.

(Reporting by Chen Lin in Singapore; Additional reporting by Sophie Yu; Editing by Mark Potter)