Bloomberg News

Benihana to Be Bought by Angelo, Gordon for $296 Million

May 22, 2012

Benihana Inc. (BNHN:US), the operator of about 95 Japanese-themed restaurants in the U.S., agreed to be acquired by Angelo, Gordon & Co.’s Private Equity Group for about $296 million in cash and be taken private.

The agreement isn’t subject to financing conditions, the companies said today in a statement. The offer of about $16.30 a share is 23 percent higher than Benihana’s closing price yesterday.

The deal brings the value of private-equity transactions in the restaurant industry in the past two years to $11.7 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Restaurant chains have been a favorite target of private investors because their cash- flow makes financing deals easy and brands can benefit from cost cutting or unit expansion.

Benihana and its RA Sushi chain have “significant expansion potential,” Anton Brenner, an analyst at Roth Capital Partners, said in an interview. “There’s still some growth and margin improvement at RA and Benihana and I think they can grow it pretty nicely.”

Brenner, who is based in Newport Beach, California, advises buying the shares.

Benihana rose 21 percent to $16.12 at the close in New York. The Miami-based company’s shares (BNHN:US) have gained 58 percent this year.

Shrimp-Flipping Chefs

The restaurant chain, known for shrimp-flipping chefs who cook at customers’ tables, said in March that it would work with Jefferies & Co. to explore a possible sale for the second time in two years. Benihana also owns the RA Sushi and Haru eatery chains.

Chief Executive Officer Richard Stockinger has said he is looking for ways to unlock value in the company’s real estate, which was valued at about $44.4 million in 2009, according to a company filing. Benihana was considering “opportunistic sale leaseback transactions and pursuing brand licensing,” he said during a conference call last year.

Revenue at Benihana rose 4.5 percent to $327.6 million in the fiscal year ended March 27, 2011. Net income was $1.34 million, compared with a net loss of $8.94 million the year before.

Earlier this month, rival P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. (PFCB:US) agreed to be taken private by Centerbridge Partners LP in a deal valuing the company at $1.1 billion. The Scottsdale, Arizona- based restaurant chain has about 400 locations under the P.F. Chang’s and Pei Wei brands.

To contact the reporter on this story: Leslie Patton in Chicago at lpatton5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net


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