Delhi-based fast food chain Nirula's is up for sale again. The 54-outlet chain is currently majority owned by Malaysia-headquartered private equity fund Navis Capital Partners. Navis bought the company from Delhi-based Nirula's family in 2006 for $20 million or Rs 90 crore.

The potential suitors for the company include the Delhi-based Dabur family, the Thapar Group, the blank check firm Indian Hospitality Corporation and an unnamed Dubai fund. The owners are expecting a price tag of Rs 300 crore, however, this information has not been verified. Investment bank NM Rothschild is holding the mandate to look for buyers for the fast food chain.

Navis has already bought and sold another restaurant business in India. It bought a 74% stake in Mumbai-based Mars Restaurants & SkyGourmet Catering and sold it to AIM listed blacnk check firm India Hospitality Corp for $110 million in 2007. This deal was done at a valuation of 5.8 times the sales of the company. That time IHC was also given a provision to buy Delhi-based Nirula's, however, the deal did not go through.

Nirula's had sales of nearly Rs 71 crore in 2007-08, up from Rs 64 crore the previous year. It is projecting sales of Rs 94 crore in 2009, which is projected to go upto Rs 434 crore in 2013. Nirula's EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) has also been falling for the last two years. In 2006 it was Rs 5.4 crore, which fell to Rs 4.2 crore in 2007 and in 2008 it was Rs 70 lakh. The company is projecting EBITDA of Rs 12.5 crore for 2009.

Nirula's has had some setbacks this year. It had to close its flagship outlet in Chanakyapuri in Delhi, and also some other outlets like the one in Lucknow. The company has around 1,600 employees and plans to expand to 71 outlets by end of the year from 54 currently.

Currently Nirula's has presence in National Capital Region, Meerut, Chandigarh and Dehradun. Samir Kukreja, CEO & MD of Nirula's, also has a stake in the firm. Kukreja, a relative of the Nirula's family, was brought in when Navis acquired the firm. He was an old Nirula's hand, and had left the firm a few years ago.

In fact, Navis has been trying to find a buyer for Nirula's for more than a year. In 2007, Kukreja reportedly said: "We could either sell out completely or we might decide to sell a percentage of the shareholding. Nothing is finalised yet."

Nirula's business is currently divided into three parts - restaurants and hotel operations, centralised kitchen operations in Noida (NCOPL), and maintainance of ovens (HFSCL). While the oven operations is very small and has revenues of only about Rs 10 lakh, the kitchen operations, apart from supplying to Nirula outlets, also supplies products to third party chains like Cafe Coffee Day. The kitchen operations and oven operations are now being merged into one company.

Nirula's operates in following formats - casual dining outlet Potpurri (7 outlets), family style restaurants (33), fuel station outlets (7), express/food court (6), and one kiosk.

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