Buyout company Lion Capital has agreed to buy noodle bar chain Wagamama for £102.5m (US$187m), according to the Bloomberg news agency.

Lion is buying the restaurant chain from Graphite Capital Management Ltd another London-based buyout firm, the company said. Led by Canadian Lyndon Lea, Lion is seeking to tap the popularity of healthy eating after profiting from investments in brands including Branston pickle and champagnes G.H. Mumm and Perrier-Jouet. The firm also owns British breakfast-cereal maker Weetabix Ltd.

"An increasing appreciation of Japanese food reflects the growing trend towards healthier eating,'' Lea said. "Wagamama represents a highly attractive opportunity to acquire a well-recognized brand with a dominant position in a rapidly growing and under-penetrated niche.'"

The purchase is Lion's first since it was split off from Dallas-based buyout firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc in January. Lion was part of group led by US winemaker Constellation Brands Inc. that yesterday dropped a £7.75bn bid to buy Allied Domecq Plc, the maker of Beefeater gin.

Graphite bought the original two Wagamama restaurants in 1996 for £4.5m, and added branches in London, Bristol and Brighton. The company plans to open its fiftieth outlet in August.