McDonald's offloads Pret stake to Bridgepoint

LONDON - Private equity firm Bridgepoint has bought a majority stake in Pret a Manger, including McDonald's 33% shareholding, for £345m.

Following the sale, Pret, which launched in 1986, expects to open at least 30 new shops in 2008, including seven in New York. Future rollouts will target London and the South East, UK regions and the US. Overall, the company aims to expand its estate by 15%.

Simon Hargraves, commercial director at Pret, said: "Pret is entering a new chapter which will see the company continue to expand globally. Our plan is to have 40 shops in Manhattan by 2010."

Pret principally operates in the £4.3bn UK high-street food services market, delivering growth rates of roughly 10% per year. It currently has 200 shops, predominantly in the UK, with 14 in the US and 11 in Hong Kong. Sales in 2007 reached £223m, an increase from £194m in 2006.

Its deal with McDonalds initially caused a stir as Pret markets itself as a healthier, more ethically sourced alternative to other fast-food outlets.

Julian Metcalfe, co-founder of Pret A Manger, said: "Bridgepoint shares our vision, understands our culture and will support our rollout plan globally."

Bridgepoint recently bought clothing retailer Fat Face for £400m.