British restaurant operator Gondola Group Ltd on Saturday revealed it had agreed to sell its PizzaExpress chain to a Chinese private equity company for ￡900 million (US$1.53 billion).
Gondola said it would sell the fast-food chain, which has 436 outlets in Britain and 68 others around the world, to Hony Capital Ltd (弘毅投資) in what it called the largest deal in the European restaurant sector in the past five years.
Hony chief executive John Zhao (趙令歡) said his company was “delighted to have acquired PizzaExpress, a well-established and exciting brand.”
“With PizzaExpress, we have the opportunity to leverage our local expertise to accelerate its growth in the Chinese market, as well as to continue to drive its business forward in the UK,” he added.
Harvey Smyth, chief executive of Gondola Group, insisted PizzaExpress had a strong future.
“PizzaExpress is stronger than ever and great credit for this goes to the teams there, who leave Gondola with our thanks and best wishes for the future,” he said.
PizzaExpress chief executive Richard Hodgson called the deal “a very positive development.”
“Asia is a key part of our future growth strategy and Hony’s expertise in this region will be invaluable,” he said. “We are looking forward to working with them on this as well as our ambitious UK growth plans.”
PizzaExpress operates in 13 international markets, including China and Hong Kong where it owns 22 sites.
Beijing-based Hony Capital oversees about US$6.8 billion in assets across seven funds. The company’s interests span from construction materials, pharmaceutical and healthcare to retail, media and entertainment, financial services, energy and resources, according to its Web site.
The latest acquisition adds to similar overseas deals by Chinese and Hong Kong-listed companies, which spent US$12.3 billion abroad on takeovers and investments in food, drink or agriculture last year, the most in at least a decade, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Bright Food Group Co (光明食品) acquired British cereal maker Weetabix Ltd in 2012.
China’s WH Group Ltd (萬洲國際), the world’s biggest pork producer, last year bought Smithfield Foods Inc for US$4.7 billion, making it the largest Chinese purchase of a US company. In May, Bright agreed to pay about US$960 million for a majority stake in Israel’s Tnuva Food Industries Ltd.
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