Hutton Collins targets Wagamama

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The Independent Online

Wagamama, the noodle bar chain that pulled plans for a £50m stock market listing earlier this month, is tipped to be sold to Hutton Collins, the specialist buyout financier.

Wagamama, the noodle bar chain that pulled plans for a £50m stock market listing earlier this month, is tipped to be sold to Hutton Collins, the specialist buyout financier.

The group's majority owner, Graphite Capital, has been conducting an auction of the restaurant chain famed for its communal dining on long, wooden benches.

Hutton Collins yesterday emerged at the front of a queue of private equity bidders that included Apax Partners. The sale is expected to net Wagamama's chief executive Ian Neill and his management team, who share a 13 per cent stake in the business, a windfall of at least £6.5m.

Wagamama, founded by Alan Yau in 1992, is planning to expand its 24-strong UK estate, opening 10 sites this year. It is also expanding its overseas franchise business, which comprises three restaurants in Sydney, one in Dublin and another in Amsterdam.

Hutton Collins was set up two years ago to provide finance for European leveraged buyouts. It specialises in mezzanine finance, a type of loan for buyouts where the lender takes an equity stake in the target company. It is expected to pay £50m for control of Wagamama, which has debts of £8m.

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