Restaurant chain PizzaExpress is to be sold to a Chinese firm for £900 million, it has been announced.
Gondola Group said it had agreed the sale with Hony Capital, a leading private equity firm in China, and described the transaction as the largest in the European restaurant sector in the past five years.
PizzaExpress has 436 outlets in the UK along with 68 elsewhere in the world, including 22 in China.
Gondola Group, which also owns Zizzi and ASK Italian, said it had added more than 130 PizzaExpress restaurants in the UK and created around 2,500 jobs since it went private seven years ago
John Zhao, chief executive of the Chinese outfit, said: " Hony Capital is delighted to have acquired PizzaExpress, a well-established and exciting brand.
"We have built a strong track record in helping Chinese enterprises to expand globally. With PizzaExpress, we have the opportunity to leverage our local expertise to accelerate its growth in the Chinese market, as well as to continue to drive its business forward in the UK."
Harvey Smyth, chief executive of Gondola Group, said: " PizzaExpress is an iconic brand in the UK restaurant sector with a strong and growing international presence. This has been reflected in the considerable interest we received in buying the business and in today's transaction with Hony.
"PizzaExpress is stronger than ever and great credit for this goes to the teams there, who leave Gondola with our thanks and best wishes for the future."
Speaking yesterday, PizzaExpress chief executive Richard Hodgson said: " Today's acquisition of PizzaExpress by Hony is a very positive development at an exciting time for the business. Asia is a key part of our future growth strategy and Hony's expertise in this region will be invaluable. We are looking forward to working with them on this as well as our ambitious UK growth plans."