SEOUL/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Buyout firms Unitas, Permira and Barings Private Equity are among shortlisted bidders for the sale of Outback Steakhouse’s Asian assets — a deal valued at around $300 million, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Private equity fund Bain Capital was looking to sell Outback’s Asian assets, including restaurant chains in South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong and business rights in China, the sources said, adding that South Korean strategic investor CJ Group was among buyers chasing the assets.
Bain, Barings and Unitas all declined to comment. Permira was not immediately available for comment.
“Korean industry players are closely watching the deal and CJ is participating in the initial sale process,” said a buy-side source, who declined to be identified because the process was ongoing.
The other sources declined to be identified as the sale process was confidential.
Goldman Sachs (GS.N), which is advising Bain on the deal, declined to comment.
RESTAURANTS ARE HOT
Restaurant dealmaking has been heating up recently with the start of a consumer spending recovery and greater access to capital that has boosted appetites among private equity firms.
Most of the restaurants to be sold are in South Korea, where Outback is the biggest among the so-called family restaurant chains in the local market.
In the Korean market, Outback competes with CJ’s VIPS, rise ON’s Bennigans and Lotte’s T.G.I.F, all facing growing competition with more lavish or health-focused dining places.
Revenue from Outback’s Asian subsidiaries on the selling block totalled $240.4 million in the 12 months to September 2009, while net income was $3.3 million, according to operator OSI Restaurant Partners LLC.
Several private equity funds in the region are exploring exits from their profitable investments.
TPG, for instance, is looking to float China Grand Automotive Services Co in deal worth about $1 billion. In March, TPG sold its 23.9 percent stake in Singapore Parkway Holdings (PARM.SI) to Indian hospital chain Fortis Healthcare (FOHE.BO) for $685 million.
By Rhee So-eui and Denny Thomas
(Additional reporting by George Chen)