Navis Capital to sell Nirula’s stake to A2Z Excursions
24 Jul 2012

Malaysia -based private equity firm Navis Capital Partners, which earlier this year took complete control of home grown fast food chain Nirula’s, is selling all assets in the company to A2Z Excursions (A2Z), a privately-held business group involved in the hotels and real estate business, run by entrepreneur Pradeep Chadha.

The Indian QSR was completely acquired by Navis after its CEO Samir Kuckreja exited the company in April. Kuckreja who owned less than 10 per cent shares in Nirula’s had sold off his shares to Navis. His association with the restaurant chain had lasted six years.

"Navis Capital Partners, through its private equity fund, Navis Asia Fund has agreed to sell 100 per cent of the Nirula's Group to A2Z Excursions (A2Z), a privately-held business group with interests in the hotel, real estate, travel and tourism sectors in India," Nicholas Bloy, managing partner at Navis Capital said in a report by Economic Times.

Bloy declined to comment on the size of the deal, but two persons with knowledge of the developments said the acquisitions was likely in the range of Rs 60-80 crore, though the number could not be independently verified. "The biggest asset is the Nirula's hotel property in Delhi-NCR, it is a key real estate asset. The restaurants by themselves did not get a very high valuation," one of the persons said.

Nirula's, which had kicked off a rage in the mid-1980s as an iconic fast food restaurant chain with its footlong pizzas and hot chocolate fudge, could not capitalise on its first-mover advantage. Starting a decade back, it began losing out to competition from established global players in this space such as McDonald's and Yum Restaurants-promoted Pizza Hut and KFC.

Nirula's had been on the block for close to two years. Navis had acquired Nirula's in '06 for close to Rs 90 crore.

Nirula's sales are estimated at Rs 100 crore. The 77-year old restaurant chain operates largely on the franchisee structure, mainly in the Northern states. The chain's 80-odd stores include dine-in restaurants, pastry shops, ice-cream parlours, hotels and coffee shops.

The average holding period for most PE investments is six years and Navis is completing that duration this year. Post acquisition, Navis had invested Rs 30 crore on Nirula's directly, while another Rs 20 crore was infused by the franchisees for store rollouts, equipment and kitchens. The PE firm had also been backing Nirula's expansion into two and three-tier cities such as Meerut, Mussoorie and Patna.

The number of stores were taken up from up from 20 outlets in 2006 to 80 now, under Navis, which also led the chain to set up stores in west and central India. In mid-'07, India Hospitality Corp (IHC) had almost acquired Nirula's from Navis but the deal did not materialise and was attributed to IHC wanting 100% stake in the restaurant chain.

At that time, Navis wanted to offload only a minority stake. Two years back, Navis and Kuckreja had put Nirula's on the block but found no takers because of high valuation. At that time, it was learnt that Nirula's promoters had pegged a valuation of Rs 300 crore for a sell-out.