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Franco Manca owner agrees to £93m buyout by Japanese group

<span>Photograph: Michelle Grant/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Michelle Grant/Rex/Shutterstock

The owner of Franco Manca and The Real Greek restaurant chains has agreed to sell the business to the Japanese operator of Wok to Walk and Marugame Udon for £93.4m.

Toridoll, which is listed on the Tokyo exchange and has sales of £1bn worldwide, said it had partnered with the restaurant sector specialist fund Capdesia to buy the London-listed pizza and Greek casual dining group Fulham Shore for 14.15p a share in cash.

Shares in Fulham Shore soared by a third to 14p on Wednesday morning when the deal was announced.

Toridoll was founded in 1990 by Takaya Awata, who started with a yakitori – or grilled chicken – restaurant in Japan in the 1980s and has more than 1,000 outlets around the world.

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The Japanese group said it had made the offer for Fulham Shore as the British group had continued to perform well despite “challenging trading circumstances of recent years”. It said the group, which has 97 outlets across the UK, had room to grow in the UK and overseas as well as putting more products, such as readymade pizzas, in retail stores.

David Page, the executive chair of Fulham Shore, said the group’s board was recommending the deal to shareholders as it would allow it to “fulfil its long-term potential”.

He said: “We are proud of the significant progress that Fulham Shore has made since it was founded in 2012. While we remain excited about the prospects for the business on a standalone basis, we have been in discussions with both Toridoll and Capdesia and received a proposal that we believe is compelling for all of our stakeholders.”

Franco Manca, known for its sourdough pizzas, was founded in Brixton, south London, in 2008 and was bought by Fulham Shore in 2015, when it already owned The Real Greek.

The group said on Wednesday it expected to reach sales of about £100m for the year to March, a record, as trading near transport hubs and tourist locations was going well, while those in office districts had yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Dining chains are under pressure from rising costs – from energy, labour and ingredients – while sales growth is also hard to find as consumers try to rein in spending on treats because of soaring household bills.

The group said it planned six new restaurants this year as business had recovered after the pandemic lockdowns but added: “The outlook for costs, be they utilities, raw ingredients or labour continue to present challenges for all operators within the sector and we are not immune. As with other operators, finding staff remains challenging.”

Awata, who is the president and chief executive of Toridoll, said its partnership with Capdesia would give “the combined expertise and significant resources” to accelerate the growth of Franco Manca and The Real Greek. “We are confident that both have the potential for significant future growth, domestically and internationally,” he said.