Wagamama sold for €244m

Noodle chain Wagamama is to step up its restaurant opening programme after being snapped up by a private equity firm in a £215m (€244m) deal today.

Noodle chain Wagamama is to step up its restaurant opening programme after being snapped up by a private equity firm in a £215m (€244m) deal today.

London-based Duke Street has agreed to buy the Japanese-style chain from consumer business investor Lion Capital and has said it will make expansion one of its priorities.

It is understood that the move will secure a hefty windfall for Lion, which bought the business for around £100m (€113m) in 2005.

The business’s management team will retain its minority stake but is also expected to receive a payout as part of the deal.

Under Lion’s ownership, Wagamama, which employs around 2,350 staff in the UK, has doubled its number of restaurants in the UK to 70 and opened its first three company-owned sites overseas, in Boston in the US.

Lion also more than trebled the number of eateries overseas through franchise partners to 36.

A spokesman for Duke Street said its new owners would make extra funds available to increase the rate of store openings both in the UK and overseas.

The deal, which is understood to be worth about £215m (€244m), is expected to complete in the next 30 days.

The chain, which was founded in Bloomsbury, London in 1992 by the restaurateur Alan Yau, sells more than 12 tonnes of noodles a week. It recorded more than £15m (€17m) in pre-tax profits in the year to April 2010.

London-based Lion, which attempted to float the business in 2007, also has investments in Weetabix, Findus Group and Kettle Chips owner Kettle Foods.

Duke Street also owns discount chain The Original Factory Shop and used to own stakes in Focus DIY and Esporta gyms.

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