Bridgepoint revives Metcalfe partnership with Itsu stake

Bridgepoint, the private equity firm, is to take a big stake in Itsu, the Asian fast-food chain – a deal that will revive one of the UK casual dining industry’s most successful partnerships.

Sky News has learnt that Bridgepoint is putting the finishing touches to a deal, with an announcement possible as soon as Monday.

The deal is expected to value Itsu at up to £100m.

It will see the London-based investor joining forces for the second time with Julian Metcalfe, Itsu’s founder.

A man shops in a Pret A Manger store in Melcombe Street in central London. Filipino fast food group Jollibee Foods Corp is reportedly eyeing a potential takeover of the British sandwich chain that could value the UK company at more than one billion dollars (738 million).
The new partnership will build on their success with Pret a Manger

Together, they were instrumental in growing Pret a Manger into one of the most ubiquitous food businesses on British high streets.

Bridgepoint bought a stake in Pret in 2008 in a deal valuing the company at £364m.

A decade later, it was sold for £1.5bn, having quadrupled revenues and profits, and making Bridgepoint more than six times its original investment.

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Sources said its renewed partnership with Mr Metcalfe had come about in part because of the strong growth potential of Itsu’s grocery business, which has seen it begin distributing branded products in chains such as Waitrose.

Itsu also plans to open another 100 stores in the coming years, capitalising on consumer demand for healthier fast food.

The expansion, allied with the growth of the grocery business, could create 2,000 new jobs, according to insiders.

Such a target would represent a rarity in an industry which has been decimated by the coronavirus crisis.

A closed Carluccio's restaurant in West Bridgford, Nottingham after the company announced that it has entered into administration, putting more than 2,000 jobs at risk. PA Photo. Picture date: Monday March 30, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Tim Goode/PA Wire.
Carluccio’s was among the first of the COVID-19 casual dining casualties

Bridgepoint’s investment in Itsu will come less than a year after Itsu secured approval from creditors for a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) – an insolvency mechanism which allows struggling companies to restructure and reduce their financial liabilities such as rents and bank debt.

As part of that process, Itsu closed two of its 77 UK outlets and agreed rent cuts at the majority of the remaining sites.

Numerous restaurant chains have been through similar restructurings since the start of the pandemic in March last year, costing tens of thousands of jobs across the industry.

Byron, Carluccio’s, Frankie & Benny’s and Prezzo have all been forced to close stores and resort to calling in administrators.

Bridgepoint declined to comment on Friday.

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