Yum! Brands Inc., whose restaurants have been selling crispy chicken in Beijing since 1987, plans to split its China business off into a separate publicly traded company following pressure from activist investor Keith Meister.

The new company will be led by Micky Pant, who was named the China unit’s chief executive officer in August, the Louisville, Kentucky-based company said Tuesday in a statement. Greg Creed will continue to lead Yum.
Yum is hiving off the China business after a prolonged sales slump caused by food-safety scandals and increasing competition from local fast-food chains. Meister, a protege of billionaire Carl Icahn, has said the company’s Asian market could be better served with a more focused business and that the move could boost Yum’s value by $7 billion. The company said Tuesday that it is committed to returning “substantial capital” to shareholders in connection with the split.
Yum shares rose 4.2 percent to $74.75 at 7:09 a.m. in early trading in New York. The stock had slid 1.6 percent this year through Monday.