Pizza Express sold to Chinese firm Hony Capital for £900m

Pizza Express restaurant window There are more than 500 Pizza Express restaurants across the world

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The restaurant chain Pizza Express has been sold to a Chinese firm for around £900m, following "considerable interest" in the business.

The UK Gondola Group confirmed the sale to private equity firm Hony Capital.

There are 436 Pizza Express restaurants in the UK along with 68 internationally - including 22 in China - employing more than 9,000 workers.

Chief executive Richard Hodgson said expansion in Asia was a "key part" of future growth strategy.

The sale was a "very positive development at an exciting time for the business", he said.

Pizza Express already has 12 restaurants in Hong Kong and nine in Shanghai, as well as outlets in India, Saudi Arabia and Bali.

The sale comes as The Gondola Group - which also owns UK pizza chains Zizzi and ASK Italian - opened the first Pizza Express restaurant in the Chinese capital Beijing earlier this year.

In a joint statement released by the two firms, Hony Capital said it planned to expand the brand both in the UK and in China.

John Zhao, chief executive, said the firm aimed to "leverage our local expertise" to accelerate the restaurant chain's growth in Asia.

The deal is the latest example of Chinese firms buying and taking over British businesses.

Last year, Chinese property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group completed a takeover of Dorset luxury yacht maker Sunseeker International.

In 2012, China's Bright Food bought a controlling stake in Weetabix, which owns the breakfast cereal brand as well as Alpen and Ready Brek.

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