Pizza Express
Hony Capital have acquired Pizza Express for £900 million. AFP / Getty Images

UK restaurant chain Pizza Express has been sold to a Chinese firm for around £900 million.

Chinese investment group Hony Capital has acquired the pizza chain from the UK Gondola Group, which also owns UK pizza chains Zizzi and ASK Italian.

Hony struck the deal after an auction process that included interest from rival Chinese investment firm Citic and private equity groups Carlyle, CVC, Advent and former owner TDR.

The sale values Pizza Express at around 10 times its £88.5m of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

In a joint statement released by the two firms, Hony Capital said it planned to expand the brand in the UK and in China.

John Zhao, chief executive of Hony Capital, said his group's local expertise would "accelerate its growth in the Chinese market".

Richard Hodgson, who runs Pizza Express, said Asian expansion was a key part of the chain's growth strategy.

He described the sale as a "very positive development at an exciting time for the business".

The Chinese acquisition comes two months after Pizza Express expanded its empire of 500 restaurants to include a restaurant in the Chinese capital Beijing.

There are 436 Pizza Express restaurants in the UK along with 68 internationally - including 22 in China - employing more than 9,000 workers.

The group already runs 12 restaurants in Hong Kong and nine in Shanghai, as well as outlets in India, Saudi Arabia and Bali.

Hony's acquisition is the latest in a growing list of Chinese firms taking over British businesses. In 2012, Chinese company Bright Foods bought a 60% stake in cereal Weetabix.

In 2013, Chinese property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group acquired Dorset luxury yacht maker Sunseeker International.