KENYA – The private equity company Abraaj Group has acquired 100% of Java House and its affiliated brands from American Emerging Capital Partners, with a focus on growing the coffee chain’s footprint into Africa.

American founder and chairman, Kevin Ashley – who later sold a majority stake in the company to Emerging Capital Partners (ECP), established Java House, the largest casual dining food services chain in East Africa with 60 outlets, in Nairobi in 1999.

ECP has helped Java House grow from 13 shops in Nairobi into East Africa’s largest casual dining brand, building an ‘eat-out’ culture. Today, it has a regional footprint of 60 stores across 10 cities in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

The brand has grown beyond the mainstream capital cities of the three countries, opening new outlets in second tier towns including Nanyuki, Nakuru, Mombasa and Kisumu in Kenya; and in Jinja town in Uganda – beyond any other competing coffee house brand.

Java House Group has three brands: Java House, the largest coffee-led, all-day casual dining concept; Planet Yogurt, the region’s first self-service frozen yogurt chain; and 360 Degrees Artisan Pizza, an upmarket Italian pizzeria concept.

The company’s Planet Yoghurt has 6 outlets, all in Nairobi, while the 360 Degrees pizza brand has two outlets in the city, seeking to meet the rising demand for pizza.

Java House currently serves over 320,000 guest checks per month, offering food and drinks covering 25 different food categories, and employs 2000 people.

Java House also operates commercial coffee roasteries, providing quality coffee and bean sales to its own stores and to supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and wholesale buyers.

Abraaj, the leading emerging markets private equity fund has boosted its presence in sub-Saharan Africa through this deal, adding Java House Group to its investments in Kenya’s Brookside dairy, Dashen Breweries in Ethiopia, Fan Milk in Western Africa and Libstar, a consumer goods manufacturer in South Africa.

“As Java House aims to accelerate into its next phase of growth, we were seeking a partner that has the scale, platform and sector expertise to enable us to achieve our aspirations.

The Abraaj Group is that partner of choice and we look forward to working closely with their team to extend our market leadership position across the continent,” says Ken Kuguru, Chief Executive Officer of Java House.

The company plans to leverage Java House’s market leadership position “to grow the Company into the leading pan-African casual dining/food service platform, expanding into new markets and through acquisitions”, to build a leading home-grown African casual dining and foodservice group across East, West and North Africa, says Abraaj.

“Africa’s rapidly expanding middle class, sustained population growth and increasing urbanization is creating compelling investment opportunities in multiple sectors, and we believe Java House is ideally positioned to benefit from these trends,” says Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, Managing Partner and Global Head of Private Equityat The Abraaj Group.

The transaction will close once customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals are obtained.