Chinese private equity group Hony Capital Ltd agreed to buy UK restaurant group PizzaExpress for $1.54 billion late last week, fending off rival Chinese bidder Citic Group.

The British restaurant chain has more than 500 stores, most of which are in the United Kingdom. But recently the company has focused on overseas expansion: its first Beijing restaurant opened earlier this year. In addition, the company has 21 other locations in China and Hong Kong. “Asia is a huge part of our future growth strategy and Hony’s expertise in this region will be invaluable,” PizzaExpress CEO Richard Hodgson said in an interview with the Financial Times.

The acquisition of PizzaExpress reflects the broader trend of Chinese firms buying up foreign companies, especially those in the food, beverage, and agriculture sectors. Last year alone, mainland and Hong Kong firms spent $12.3 billion on takeovers and investments in these sectors abroad according to Bloomberg. This was more money than in the entire previous decade combined.

Posted by Catherine Matacic