Houlihan’s Restaurants up for sale-sources

(Reuters) – Casual dining chain Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc is in talks with private equity firms and other restaurant companies to sell itself in a deal that could fetch nearly $100 million, sou rces familiar with the situation said.

The company’s owner, private equity firm Goldner Hawn Johnson Morrison, has hired Piper Jaffray Cos to advise on the sale, the sources said.

Goldner Hawn and Leakwood, Kansas -based Houlihan’s declined to comment. Piper Jaffray could not be reached for a comment.

Houlihan’s generated $145 million in revenue in 2011, operating 46 corporate and 45 franchised restaurants under the Houlihan’s, Devon and J. Gilbert’s brands, according to Goldner Hawn’s web site.

Houlihan’s has about $15 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) — a measure of cash flow — according to one source. The company might sell for 5.5 to 6.5 times EBITDA, said the source — meaning the deal could be valued at as much as $97.5 million.

Financial buyers have typically been more active in the restaurant sector, say investment bankers, aside from strategic players like Landry’s Inc and Darden Restaurants Inc .

Earlier this month, private equity firm Centerbridge Partners acquired Asian-themed bistro P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc for $1.1 billion.

Other recent deals included Golden Gate Capital’s $470 million buyout of California Pizza Kitchen Inc and Roark Capital’s takeout of Arby’s Restaurant Group for $430 million.

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