Pizza Express sold to Chinese private equity group Hony Capital for £900m

Expansion of the British restaurant chain into the Asia market is seen as key for its growth

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The Independent Online

British restaurant chain Pizza Express has been bought by a Chinese equity firm for about £900million.

Beijing-based Hony Capital’s deal with Gondola Group, which also owns Zizzi and ASK, is the “largest in the European restaurant sector in the past five years,” the firms said in a joint statement.

“Under Gondola’s ownership, Pizza Express has built a strong management team, led by Richard Hodgson, which will remain with the business,” the companies said, Reuters reports.

Expansion into the Asia market is seen as one of the company’s key areas of growth, with the restaurant having opened its first Beijing outpost two months ago.

It also has 12 in Hong Kong and nine in Shanghai, as well as over 400 around the UK and branches in Gibraltar, Qatar and Mumbai.

Private equity firm Cinven had bought the Gondola Group in 2006, but was reported earlier this year to be considering breaking this restaurant division apart.

Cinven has reportedly started to sell off the individual chains within Gondola after concluding that it would be too difficult to find a buyer for the entire business, according to the Financial Times.

Burger chain Byron, which had been one of Gondola’s assets previously, was sold to investment group Hutton Collins for £100million in October last year.

The latest sale, however, demonstrates the growing interest that Chinese investors have in British food and beverage companies, commentators say.