Cinven Said to Plan PizzaExpress Sale in Gondola Breakup

Cinven Ltd., a London-based private-equity firm, is considering a sale of the PizzaExpress chain as part of a breakup of its Gondola Group Ltd. restaurant unit, three people with knowledge of the talks said.

Cinven, which bought Gondola in 2006, hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to sell PizzaExpress, the company’s biggest restaurant chain, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The sale may happen this year and raise as much as 900 million pounds ($1.5 billion), they said.

Rothschild is working with Cinven to consider options for Gondola’s Ask, Kettner’s and Zizzi brands, which could be sold individually, the people said. Gondola sold the Byron hamburger chain to investment group Hutton Collins Partners LLP for 100 million pounds in October.

PizzaExpress operates 477 restaurants, with 421 of those in the U.K. and Ireland, and employs 9,300 people, according to Gondola’s annual report. The chain, headed by Richard Hodgson, plans to open a further 200 sites in coming years.

Gondola’s revenue rose to 604.2 million pounds in the 52 weeks through June from 591.7 million pounds in the year-earlier period, the latest filings show. Operating profit fell to 32.2 million pounds from 39 million pounds.

Spokesman for Cinven, Gondola and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

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