China's Hony Capital buys Pizza Express for £900m

 
Sarah Spickernell
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Pizza Express is one of many brands being snapped up by Chinese investors (Source: Getty)
A private equity firm in China has purchased Pizza Express for £900m.
Hony Capital bought the British restaurant chain after winning against other Chinese firms in a bidding process.
The move comes after London-based buyout group Cinven looked into selling Pizza Express' parent company Gondola Group last year.
Gondola Group also owns other chains including Italian restaurant Zizzi, and in total it employs more than 15,000 people across over 690 restaurants.
It was taken private by Cinven in 2006, in a deal worth €1.3bn. As it considered making the company public again, last year Cinven hired Goldman Sachs and Rothschild to look into a potential float or break-up of the Gondola business.
It decided against trying to sell the business as a whole because of the difficulty in finding a private buyer. Instead, it is selling off the chains individually. Last year, for example, it sold gourmet burger chain Byron for £100m.
The buy reflects a more general growth in China's appetite for overseas investments. Recently Chinese firms have been snapping up a number of UK brands, particularly in the food and beverage industries: during the financial year to June 2014, they made up 17 per cent of all mergers and acquisitions in China.
This was almost on a level with the 20 per cent from the energy and power sector, which is known for sealing the most deals in China, according to Reuters.
Over the past few years Pizza Express has been expanding globally, with branches now open in 14 countries worldwide. In China, it already has restaurants based in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and it will be opening its first outlet in Beijing this summer.

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