Industry News | October 21, 2005

Blackstone, Carlyle Make Bids for Dunkin' Donuts

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Blackstone Group LP and Carlyle Group made competing buyout offers this week for Dunkin' Donuts and two other restaurant units being sold by Pernod Ricard SA, Bloomberg reported today.

Blackstone teamed up with Texas Pacific Group, owner of the Burger King fast-food chain. Carlyle joined with Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, said the people, who confirmed the bids on condition they weren't named. Pernod Managing Director Richard Burrows said in an interview in July that the company expects to raise about $2 billion from the sale.

``For an interesting branded asset such as Dunkin', you would get a feeding frenzy by the private-equity groups who have raised record amounts of money this year,'' said Charles F. Baird, managing partner at buyout firm North Castle Partners LLC of Greenwich, Connecticut.

The buyout groups are competing for Pernod's Dunkin' Brands restaurants, whose first-half operating profit rose 36 percent to 45 million pounds ($79.8 million) on a 28 percent gain in sales to 123 million pounds. The unit operates Dunkin' Donuts, the largest U.S. doughnut chain; Baskin-Robbins ice cream shops; and Togo's, which sells sandwiches. Both groups submitted bids Oct. 19.

Pernod, the world's second-largest liquor company, acquired Dunkin' Brands as part of its 7.6 billion pound ($13.9 billion) purchase of Allied Domecq. Paris-based Pernod is selling the unit to focus on the liquor business.

Jayne Fitzpatrick, chief strategy officer of Canton, Massachusetts-based Dunkin' Brands, declined to comment. Also declining to comment were John Ford, a spokesman for New York- based Blackstone; Owen Blicksilver, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Texas Pacific; Chris Ullman, a spokesman for Washington-based Carlyle; and Alex Stanton and Jenna Focarino, spokespeople for Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee, both of Boston.

Competing Against Starbucks

Private-equity firms have announced $222 billion in takeovers so far this year, a 47 percent jump from the same period in 2004, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Buyout firms are raising their biggest funds ever. Blackstone has commitments for a $12.5 billion fund, which would be the industry's largest.

Dunkin' Donuts has been adding lattes, espressos and flavored iced coffees to win more customers from Starbucks Corp. The chain, which has 5,500 outlets, aims to add 10,000 more during the next 10 to 15 years.

``The potential return on investment is very high when you grow a franchise chain,'' said Ron Paul, president of Technomics Inc., a Chneed icago-based food consulting company. ``You don't a lot of capital to grow a franchise chain.''