Chinese New Year 2014: Bird Flu Threatens KFC Busiest China Sales Period
Chinese New Year 2014: Bird Flu Threatens KFC Busiest China Sales PeriodReuters

Chinese New Year is one of the busiest trading periods for KFC but the spread of bird flu across China is set to threaten the group's profits over the next few months.

According to Xinhua news agency, the H7N9 avian influenza virus has killed 19 and infected 96 people in China this year and authorities are set to halt live poultry sales for three months starting on the first day of Chinese New Year, 31 January.

Although the US American fast food chain may not seem to be traditional Asian cuisine, KFC's popularity has grown across China, Japan and a number of countries around the continent, especially around holiday periods such as Chinese New Year and Christmas.

KFC, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, has more than 4,400 outlets in China.

"The Chinese New Year is a seasonally strong period for our business," said Pat Grismer, Yum Brands chief financial officer in 2013.

He added later on that the group pushed new restaurant openings to the first quarter to "benefit from peak seasonal sales during Chinese New Year."

However in 2013, KFC's China sales took a major hit after a supplier was discovered in December 2012 to be overusing antibiotics.

Meanwhile, due to Yum! Brands continual concern over bird flu affecting sales in China, the giant corporation is looking to aggressively expand into India with the goal of bringing the country's total number of KFCs, Pizza Huts, and Taco Bells to 1,000 by 2015.

As of November 2013, there were 296 KFC restaurants, 313 Pizza Huts, and four Taco Bells in India.