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Wagamama changes hands and sets out to conquer the USA

23 June 2005

Noodle-bar chain Wagamama has set its sights on breaking into North America following the sale of a majority share in the business last week.

Graphite Capital is selling its majority stake in the chain for £102.5m to fellow private equity firm, Lion Capital.

The deal, expected to complete next month, will see the noodle-chain step its expansion programme up a gear.

Wagamama is expected to launch nine new UK restaurants in the financial year to April 2006, with 12 the year after, and a further 15 by 2008.
A spokeswoman said plans to crack the USA were now in the pipeline. "At this point we don't know if it would be a franchise or joint venture but we're looking at Boston, Chicago or New York," she added.

As part of the deal, Wagamama's senior management team, led by Ian Neill, retain a "significant economic interest" in the company.

Neill said of Lion Capital: "Its expertise in working with companies that are brand-orientated will be invaluable in helping us take Wagamama through the next stage of its expansion plans in the UK and abroad."

Graphite Capital has retained a minority stake in the business, valued at £7m.

Wagamama will open its 50th worldwide restaurant on 3 August in London's Royal Festival Hall.

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