Private equity bidders line up for Caring's Côte Brasserie

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The Independent Online

Côte Brasserie, the French restaurants chain backed by the business tycoon Richard Caring, is to receive initial bids that value the business at £120m-plus next week.

The private equity firms Equistone, Bridgepoint and LDC, among others, are expected to submit offers to acquire the fast-growing chain by the first-round deadline of 5 February.

Mr Caring and other key shareholders put 37-restaurant Côte Brasserie up for sale last year by hiring advisers at Hawkpoint, the corporate finance firm, and it is thought they want to complete the process by the end of March. The sale will put down a key marker for other restaurants hoping to cash in this year on resilient demand for eating out at well-run venues.

Mr Caring, Côte's biggest shareholder with just under 50 per cent, is best-known for his ownership of London restaurants, including the celebrity haunt The Ivy, Scott's and Le Caprice. He also owns the capital's upmarket Annabel's nightclub and the Wentworth Club in Surrey. He is worth an estimated £700m.

Founded in 2007, Côte, which offers dishes from steak frites to moules marinières, has powered its way through the consumer downturn and continues to open up to 12 restaurants a year.

The restaurant is being sold on a multiple of at least nine times forward underlying earnings of between £13m and £14m for this year. The expected price tag of £120m-plus reflects a similar multiple to the completed sales of other popular chains, such as the Italian food chain Carluccio's and noodle business Wagamama, in recent years.

While Mr Caring and some of the founding team are tipped to exit Côte, the joint managing directors, Harald Samuelsson and Alex Scrimgeour, are likely to remain at the helm.

Côte is the latest investment to be sold by Mr Caring. He is reportedly preparing to sell 20 Grosvenor Square, the former American navy headquarters in London. Last year, Mr Caring offloaded 50 per cent of the 80 per cent stake he held in Soho House, the London private members' club.

All parties either declined to comment or did not return calls.