THE Dutch bank ABN Amro is in talks to take a majority stake in TGI FridayÃ¢Â€Â™s after teaming up with American leisure group Carlson Wagonlit to buy the restaurant chain from Whitbread for about Ã‚Â£70m.
The move caps a frenzied few days of dealmaking in the British dining sector. The Japanese chain Yo Sushi has completed a refinancing that values the business at about Ã‚Â£35m while Town Centre Restaurants has been the subject of a management buyout.
Whitbread, which owns the UK franchise for TGI, has been trying to sell its 46 restaurants for several months. Carlson has long been seen as the buyer, as it owns the TGI brand, but it is understood the company has brought in ABN AmroÃ¢Â€Â™s private-equity division to finance the deal. In return ABN Amro will take a majority stake in the business.
It is unclear how far the two sides are from an agreement. One source involved in the talks said it could be Ã¢Â€Âœa few days or a few weeksÃ¢Â€?.
Meanwhile, shareholders in Yo Sushi will be able to recoup much of their investment following the injection of Ã‚Â£17.5m of new debt finance from Barclays. Those to profit from the deal include management, led by chief executive Robin Rowland, founder Simon Woodroffe, who still owns about 22% of the chain, and private-equity firm Primary Capital.
Rowland is now likely to turn his attention to growing the business overseas, particularly in America. The group has 34 restaurants, famous for the conveyor belts that deliver customers their food, of which 26 are in Britain. Sales in the UK grew 45% last year to Ã‚Â£23m.