Bridgepoint takes a slice of Zizzi, ASK Italian

UK-based Cinven will sell the two restaurant chains for £250m

Cinven, a pan-European private equity firm, has agreed to sell restaurant chains ASK Italian and Zizzi to fellow pan-European firm Bridgepoint for £250 million.

The sale means Cinven now has fully exited its investment in the Gondola Group, following the sale of PizzaExpress to Hony Capital in July and hamburger chain Byron to Hutton Collins in October 2013 for a combined value of approximately £1 billion.

The sale of ASK and Zizzi brings the total sale proceeds to approximately £1.3 billion, netting the firm a total return of 2.4x, Cinven said in a statement.

In the UK, Zizzi and ASK operate 136 and 109 restaurants, respectively. Performance has been strong over the last three years with 22 percent compounded EBITDA growth, despite the challenging consumer environment, Cinven said.

Cinven invested in Gondola in 2007 via a public-to-private transaction from the London Stock Exchange. Under Cinven’s ownership, ASK and Zizzi have been completely repositioned, with significant investment over the past four years.

The firm has also accelerated the UK new site roll-out, which Cinven had done with other UK leisure investments including Fitness First, Odeon and William Hill. It also acquiring the international franchise business of PizzaExpress in 2010 as a platform for international expansion. Cinven’s portfolio team in Asia worked closely with PizzaExpress’s management to accelerate the business growth in international markets, particularly in Asia.

Additionally, Cinven improved Gondola’s promotional strategy including investment in technology and a proprietary customer database, as well as improving operational efficiencies including cost and procurement savings.

“We have worked exceptionally hard with the Gondola management team to maintain UK growth momentum through what has been a challenging consumer environment; create Byron, the market leading burger concept; and transform PizzaExpress from a UK business into a truly international growth story,” Charles Miller-Jones, a principal at Cinven, said in the statement.

For Bridgepoint, the acquisition comes shortly after the firm has amassed €2.8 billion for its latest vehicle, Bridgepoint Europe V, PEI revealed in October. The fund, which officially came to market in May, has already raised 80 percent of its €3.5 billion target, an investor source told Private Equity International.

A spokesperson was not immediate available to confirm that the acquisition will be made from this vehicle, but the firm’s prior fund, the €4.84 billion Bridgepoint Europe IV, is fully deployed, and only has capital available for add-on acquisitions, PEI reported earlier.