Suitors circling Japanese restaurant chain Yo! Sushi have entered a second round of bidding, with private equity firm 3i understood to be one of the frontrunners in the race.
Yo! Sushi’s private equity owner Quilvest hired bankers at Canaccord Genuity last year to explore a sale of the business, with a price tag of around £120m.
The chain, under chief executive Vanessa Hall, is looking for a buyer that can fund its expansion in the US, where it recently opened its first two restaurants and where it plans to launch around 50 new sites over the next six years.
3i, fresh from buying Sussex-based manufacturer Aspen Pumps in February, has made it through to the second round of bidding along with at least four other suitors after an investment memorandum was sent out to prospective buyers last month.
Morgan Stanley’s private equity arm is also understood to be among the bidders, sources said yesterday.
Yo! Sushi was founded in 1997 by former Dragons’ Den panellist Simon Woodroffe and was the first brand to bring the concept of Japanese conveyer sushi belts to the UK.
It has since grown to over 90 sites after opening 10 restaurants in the last year. This also includes around 10 international franchises in the Middle East, Ireland and Scandinavia.
The company reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £9.2m in 2013, up 15 per cent on the previous year. Revenue was 13 per cent higher at £71m.
Woodroffe sold 75 per cent of his stake in Yo! Sushi in 2003 and went on to sell his remaining stake in the business in 2008 when it changed hands to Quilvest. He still receives royalties and retains a stake in the other Yo! brands.