BEIJING (REUTERS) – China’s Haidilao, which operates a chain of hot pot restaurants, said its billionaire founder Zhang Yong has stepped down as chief executive and will shift his focus to long-term strategy planning.
Mr Zhang, 52, who was born in China’s Sichuan province but is now a Singapore citizen, will retain the title of chairman.
The move, which comes amid efforts by Haidilao to slash store numbers, saw Ms Yang Lijuan, 43, formerly deputy CEO and chief operating officer, take the helm as at March 1.
Mr Li Yu, 36, was named COO of its mainland China operations while Mr 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 (S$820 million) to 4.5 billion yuan, most of which is due to one-off losses from the closure of restaurants.
Shares in Haidilao were down 1.7 per cent in Wednesday morning trade compared with a 0.9 per cent decline for the Hang Seng index.