"The company is now in a position to double or triple the number of stores in the next decade," said Emery. "They have three stores in Korea, and they're actively thinking of China and other overseas markets."
Akindo Sushiro is the second large restaurant chain buyout for a global private equity firm in Japan in the last 12 months, after Bain Capital acquired Skylark for $2.1 billion last year. Earlier this year, Bain paid about $1.3 billion for a 50 percent stake in Jupiter Shop Channel, a television shopping company, making it Japan's top private equity transaction this year.
Emery said sushi was an evolving sector in Japan. "Sushi in particular is an extremely fragmented sector. The vast majority of sushi restaurants are mom-and-pop type of restaurants, relatively small and actually relatively expensive," Emery said. Akindo had annual sales of around 100 billion yen in 2011, and has been growing at around 10 percent a year, said Emery.
"This is opening up a whole new segment and what is very attractive for us is the stage of growth Sushiro is in. If you take leading restaurant brands in Japan, they can get to 1,000 restaurants easily, yet Sushiro has only 335 restaurants, so you can say there is strong growth potential."
The Permira executive said Akindo management was very keen to roll out stores in Japan and to see where else they can go. "That's where we'll be particularly focused in trying to help them on domestic and overseas expansion." Like many private equity firms, Permira has increased its emphasis on China, and last year moved Emery, who established its Tokyo office in 2005, to Hong Kong, promoting him to Asia co-head.
Late last year the fund signed a strategic agreement with a unit of state-owned China Development Bank CHDB.UL to help the two parties to pursue private equity investments in China and overseas.
Just under 25 percent of Permira's global revenue comes from Asia investments, which include Macau gaming and hotel business Galaxy Entertainment (0027.HK), Tokyo-based agrochemicals business Arysta LifeScience and Hong Kong-headquartered satellite business Asia Broadcast Satellite.
Founded in 1985, Permira advised funds with $25 billion in committed capital at the end of July.
(Stephen Aldred and Junko Fujita for Reuters)