* Unitas buys majority stake in Babela Group for $40 mln
* Choppy IPO mkts lead to increasing secondary sales in Asia
* Unitas to invest more capital, use Babela for acquisitions
By Stephen Aldred
HONG KONG, Feb 1 Private equity fund
Unitas Capital has acquired Carlyle Group's stake in
China restaurant chain Babela Group, said a source familiar with
the matter, in a small deal but one that underscores the tough
exit conditions for private equity investors.
Asia-based Unitas said on Wednesday it had acquired a
majority stake in Babela, which owns three restaurant brands in
China, for $40 million. The firm did not disclose the names of
Unitas' acquisition of the stakes of other investors comes
as choppy IPO markets are blocking a natural exit route for
private equity firms in Asia. Industry insiders say capital
markets conditions are generating increased secondary sales,
with private equity funds selling stakes to other firms to
Further details of the transaction in privately-held Babela
were not disclosed.
Carlyle, which invested in Babela in 2007 through one of its
growth capital funds, declined to comment.
Unitas, originally founded by J.P. Morgan Partners Asia in
1999, now controls Babela's board, said the source, who was not
authorised to speak to the media.
Unitas partner Jay Lee, a former senior executive of global
quick service restaurant chain Yum!, will work with the
firm's founder Chen Xing Wei, to develop Babela's brands, Unitas
Unitas said it plans to use Babela investment to buy other
restaurant brands in China. Babela's brands in China are
Babela, an Italian-themed casual dining chain of more than 120
stores in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as in tier two and tier
three cities, Bamboo Bifengteng, a Cantonese style casual dining
chain in Shanghai and Beijing, and Aha!, a Taiwanese style