Subway plans to open nearly 4,000 stores in China in one of its biggest deals ever

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Hong Kong (CNN) — Subway is planning to add thousands of new sandwich shops in China, increasing its footprint in the country by more than seven times.

The world’s biggest sandwich chain announced Tuesday that it would open almost 4,000 new stores across mainland China over the next 20 years.

The deal “is the largest master franchise agreement in Subway history and one of the largest across the entire [fast-food restaurant] industry,” Subway said in a statement.

The large-scale expansion will be made possible by a deal Subway has inked with a Chinese company, Shanghai Fu-Rui-Shi Corporate Development (FRS). A new CEO will be appointed to oversee the Chinese business.

FRS is funded by a consortium of private investors, and will also pick up exclusive rights for control of all the brand’s locations in mainland China through the agreement, according to Subway.

“This agreement is a significant milestone in Subway’s international growth strategy as we continue to focus on strategically expanding our footprint and maintaining our position as one of the world’s largest restaurant brands,” Subway Global CEO John Chidsey said in the statement.

“China is a key market with significant long-term growth opportunity, and we look forward to bringing the Subway experience to even more guests in the region.”

The deal is part of broader efforts by Subway to strike new partnerships both at home in the United States and abroad, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.

Subway has outlined plans to double “its current network of restaurants in the region, from approximately 3,500 restaurants to more than 6,000 restaurants over the next five years,” it added.

The company currently has nearly 37,000 restaurants in more than 100 markets around the world.

While Subway is best known for its sandwiches, it also serves wraps, salads and bowls. Last year, the brand managed to hit a sales record after its biggest menu changes ever.

The firm’s Chinese expansion also comes while it’s exploring a potential sale. In February, the privately held company said it had hired JPMorgan (JPM) Chase to look for a buyer after an uptick in its business fueled by the menu revamp, store renovations and international growth.

Subway did not immediately respond to a request for an update Wednesday. The company has previously said it won’t make any public comments until the sale process is complete.

But if an agreement is reached, it would be one of the biggest deals in the fast food industry since the acquisition of donut and coffee chain Dunkin’ for $11.3 billion in 2020.

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