Billionaire property developer and owner of Bengaluru-based Embassy Group, Jitendra Virwani recently acquired the Mumbai-based F&B company, JSM Corp Pvt Ltd. The company acquired by Virwani operates the Hard Rock Cafe franchise, California Pizza Kitchen, Panda Express, among others. According to reports, the billionaire partnered with Sanjay Mahtani, one of the founders of JSM to buy shares that were held by Wipro chairman Azim Premji’s private equity arm, PremjiInvest. along with other existing investors that included co-founder Jay Singh. Virwani’s investment in JSM Corp is being seen as bail-out after the company’s efforts to raise fresh capital failed, which inturned pushed in into the distress zone, according to people who were directly aware of the matter.
Now Jitendra Virwani along with Sanjay Mahtani together hold 95% in the company, the rest 5% is held by by a few small investors. Sources were quoted by Times of India saying that Virwani’s personal investment gives him an individual 62% holding. While talking about the deal, Virwani said, “I have acquired slightly over 60% stake in the company, buying shares from Premji Invest and one of the co-founders.” While further talking about his investment, he added, “I see big opportunity to expand Panda Express (a US-headquartered popular Chinese kitchen with revenue topping $2 billion) across malls, business parks, college campuses in India. I am not planning anything adventurous on the rest of the businesses.”
While Premji Invest refrained from commenting on specific investments, the report stated that it had pumped in $25 million for an initial 22% five years ago. After the deal, Premji Invest is said to have taken a huge write-off as “aggressive expansion of super-sized stores” in a highly competitive fine-dining industry proved to be the undoing. The report further stated that Premji’s investment took place at a post-money valuation of around Rs 500 crore. Sources added that the latest deal has been signed at possibly one-fourth of that figure.