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China’s Hony acquires Pizza Express

Reuters – Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital has struck a deal with Gondola Group to buy Britain’s Pizza Express chain for about 900 mln pounds ($1.6 billion), the companies said on Saturday.

Hony’s interest comes two months after Pizza Express expanded its empire of 500 restaurants to include its first Beijing-based pizzeria. The group already runs 12 restaurants in Hong Kong and nine in Shanghai. It has 436 in Britain.

Private equity fund Cinven bought Pizza Express franchise owner Gondola in a public to private transaction in 2007 for 1.3 billion euros ($1.77 billion).

Gondola, a prominent player in the UK casual dining sector, also owns ASK, Zizzi and Kettner’s, according to Cinven’s website.

“This transaction is the largest in the European restaurant sector in the past five years,” Gondola and Hony said in a joint statement.

“Under Gondola’s ownership, PizzaExpress has built a strong management team, led by Richard Hodgson, which will remain with the business,” they added.

This is the latest sale of a Gondola asset after last year’s sale of UK burger restaurant chain Byron to Hutton Collins for 100 million pounds. (Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)