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Jollibee is hunting for a U.S. fast-food chain to buy

The Philippines-based Jollibee quick-service chain intends to become a powerhouse in the American market by buying a U.S. chain with a market capitalization of up to $1 billion, chairman Tony Tan-Caktiong told a Hong Kong newspaper.

Tan-Caktiong said the ideal candidate would be a regional quick-service chain with ample room to grow. He did not mention any possible acquisition targets by name.

Mark Kalinowski, the restaurant analyst for Janney Capital Markets, said the criteria revealed by Tan-Caktiong would fit a number of big-name players in the American market. The most likely targets, he wrote in a note this morning to clients, would be Jack in the Box and its sister brand, Qdoba, as well as Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Whataburger, Culver’s, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Popeyes, Sonic, El Pollo Loco, Taco Cabana and Pollo Tropical also fit the bill, Kalinowski wrote.

Although Jollibee is one of the world’s largest restaurant companies, Tan-Caktiong said his charge might team up with a private-equity firm to fund the U.S. acquisition because of the scope of any likely deal.

Jollibee has a small presence in the United States through its namesake burger brand, which has opened a handful of units in communities with a large Filipino population.

It recently announced a deal to develop and operate 1,400 Dunkin’ Donuts units in China, in partnership with an Asian finance company.

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