Swensen's franchisee to buy Chilli Padi businesses

Sale to ABR includes Nonya restaurant and catering units

Food and beverage (F&B) firm ABR Holdings, best known for icy-cold treats as the Swensen's franchisee here, is about to go hot and spicy.

The firm is planning to buy the F&B businesses under the Chilli Padi brand - 20 years after it was founded. The sale price has not been settled yet.

The businesses include the much-loved Chilli Padi Nonya Restaurant, a catering arm and a halal unit called Chilli Api Catering.

ABR said yesterday it had entered a memorandum of understanding with the shareholders - Ms Patricia Lee Siang Choo, Mr Lee Boon Hwa and Mr Lee Cheng Watt - for a proposed acquisition. It added the move "will enhance the F&B selections within the group's portfolio and bring in an established brand into the group's business, as well as expand its revenue base".

It said the sale will take place in two tranches. A holding company for the various F&B businesses will be incorporated, and ABR will buy 80 per cent of its shares.

After that, there will be a put and call option over the other 20 per cent, to be held by Ms Lee, the managing director of Chilli Api Catering and Chilli Padi Nonya Restaurant.

The restaurant has deep roots. It opened in 1997 in Kim Tian Road, and is now at Joo Chiat Place, an area known for its Peranakan ties.

Ms Lee was a protege of veteran Peranakan chef Jolly Wee who reportedly taught a cooking class attended by Ms Lee, who is not a Nonya but a Teochew. She invited him to be a consultant when she started Chilli Padi Nonya Restaurant.

ABR said the sale price will take into account the audited net profit after tax of Chilli Padi Group for its financial year ending Dec 31 last year and adjustments to be agreed by the parties, and be paid in cash.

It has up to 20 weeks from yesterday to conduct due diligence on the Chilli Padi Group, "and to negotiate the definitive agreements".

None of the directors or controlling shareholders of the firm has any interest, direct or indirect, in the proposed acquisition.

The firm said: "The company will make further announcements to update shareholders on material developments regarding the proposed acquisition, and further details will be provided if and when definitive agreements are signed."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'Swensen's franchisee to buy Chilli Padi businesses'. Print Edition | Subscribe