Lion in £102.5m Wagamama deal

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The Independent Online

Wagamama, the Japanese noodle bar chain, is joining the house of Weetabix and Jimmy Choo after being sold to the private equity group Lion Capital in a deal worth £102.5m.

Wagamama, the Japanese noodle bar chain, is joining the house of Weetabix and Jimmy Choo after being sold to the private equity group Lion Capital in a deal worth £102.5m.

Lion Capital, formerly known as Hicks, Muse Europe, has bought out the majority stake in Wagamama from Graphite Capital, which has owned the chain since 1996.

Lyndon Lea, a founding partner of Lion Capital, said the growth prospects of the chain, which is to open its 50th site this summer, were attractive, as was its healthy-eating appeal. "This chain has a well-recognised brand and a niche position in the casual dining market," he said.

The £102.5m sale comes just months after a Wagamama refinancing that valued the business at £63m. Mr Lea said the price tag was "appropriate" given the growth prospects of the chain. Its profits have grown by 41 per cent over the past three years.

Senior management, which includes its chief executive Ian Neill, have sold some of their 15 per cent stake as part of the transaction, but are retaining a "significant" economic interest in the company. Graphite's Enterprise Trust, an investment trust company, is holding on to a 12.3 per cent stake in the business.

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