Chinese group buys PizzaExpress in £900-mn transaction

A Chinese firm has bought PizzaExpress in a deal worth £900 million, a transaction described as the largest in the European restaurant sector in five years.

Chinese group buys PizzaExpress in £900-mn transactionThe UK restaurant chain operates 436 outlets in the UK and 68 in other countries, including 22 in China.

According to Gondola Group, which owns PizzaExpress, it agreed to the sale to Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital with investments mostly in consumer, manufacturing and healthcare sectors.

John Zhao, chief executive of Hony, said Hony Capital was delighted with the acquisition of PizzaExpress, a well-established and exciting brand, radio station klfm967 said on its website .

He said with PizzaExpress, the company had the opportunity to leverage its local expertise to accelerate its growth in the Chinese market, as well as to continue to drive its business forward in the UK.

According to Harvey Smyth, chief executive of Gondola Group, PizzaExpress was an iconic brand in the UK restaurant sector with a strong and growing international presence.

He added, this had been reflected in the considerable interest the company received in buying the business and in today's transaction with Hony.

According to Richard Hodgson, chief executive Pizza Express, the acquisition of PizzaExpress was a very positive development at an exciting time for the business.

He added, Asia was a key part of Pizza Express' future growth strategy and Hony's expertise in this region would be invaluable, The Guardian newspaper reported.

Hony Capital beat Citic, another Chinese investment group in an auction process as also, four other private equity firms in what was the biggest European restaurant sector deal in the last five years.

Opening its first outlet in Beijing two months ago, Pizza Express already operates 12 restaurants in Hong Kong and nine in Shanghai.

The Pizza Express chief executive, Richard Hodgson, said the sale was a positive development for the 504-outlet chain.

According to Zhao, he was pleased to acquire what he described as a well-established and exciting brand.