Permira-backed Consumer invests in Japanese sushi chain Akindo

Irish investor Consumer Equity Investments Ltd (CEIL), backed by British buyout firm Permira Advisers LLP, said on Friday it had agreed to buy the stake held by Japan’s Unison Capital Inc in local sushi restaurant chain Akindo Sushiro Co Ltd.

The transaction values the Japanese business at about USD1bn (EUR797bn) in terms of enterprise value. It represents the fourth investment in Asia supported by the Permira funds and also the second one in Japan alone after the purchase of agrochemical business Arysta Lifescience Corp in 2008.

CEIL said it will assist the management team of Akindo Sushiro in extending the business’ store network domestically and internationally. Both the Irish firm and the Permira funds are committed to providing funding resources for this purpose, while maintaining the Japanese company’s independence, Permira partner Alex Emery stated.

Osaka-based Akindo Sushiro has established itself over the last few years as the number-one revolving sushi restaurant chain in the country in terms of revenue and currently operates 335 revolving counter sushi bars. As of December 2011, the company also has presence in South Korea. For the fiscal year to 30 September 2011, Akindo Sushiro generated a revenue of some JPY100bn (USD1.3bn/EUR1bn). It has a headcount of more than 1,000 full time and 10,000 part time employees.

Nomura Securities offered financial advice to CEIL in this transaction.

Fixing the UK’s leaking financial tap

By Dave Chaplin, CEO of ContractorCalculator

As any plumber will tell you there’s more than one way to fix a leak – you can patch it up for short term effect or do a proper job and fix it once and for all.  The latter is the preferable and for the Government the UK’s financial plumbing system is one that needs sound fresh thinking rather than a patched-up approach.  Currently the Government has access to a number of tax taps from which it siphons off cash in the form of income tax, VAT, corporation tax and the like – there are also National Insurance Contributions which, although technically not a tax, the cash from NICs is redistributed by government, sometimes quite randomly to other parts of the system.

With the increased number of freelancers and contractors, an estimated 1.4 million make up the UK workforce today, the influx from the NICs tap is waning.  Flexible workers pay fewer NICs because of the way they work and clients no longer have to pay employer’s NICs when they take on a freelancer or contractor.

However, the Government needs to find a source for more tax and with this objective in mind it adjusts the flow of other taps in the system at will – we have seen IR35 and new ones such as the controlling persons legislation and off-payroll rules are just two more taps waiting to be switched on but they are a drain on the economy and inefficient to boot – the cost of servicing these taps might outweigh the trickle of money that drips out of them.

We don’t need more taps but we do need a fresh approach – in tax circles discussions are around merging NICs and income tax, increasing compliance to catch out those who abuse the system and taxing flexible workers as though they are employees.

However, such mergers might mean that workers would shudder at what would be a perceived hike in tax.

IR35 already exists to catch those who abuse the system and the off-payroll rules and controlling persons legislation are more examples of quick fix patches to mend a leaky pipe.  IR35 does not work and most flexible workers pay less NICs as a result of using perfectly legitimate trading models like limited companies.  No amount of ‘disguised employee’ legislation can address what is a major workforce trend.

Limited company contractor witch-hunts by politicians and the media saw a direct comparison between the circumstances of employees and flexible workers – they are not comparable; employees get paid holidays, sick pay and a raft of other benefits, contractors and freelancers do not.  And, they not only receive none of these benefits, freelancers also have to make provision for holiday, sickness and pensions, and all the costs of running a business, out of their fees.  What’s more they don’t enjoy employment rights and run the constant risk of not getting paid – neither do they have the relative security a full time position as an employee brings.

Taxing flexible workers and the employed the same would be a massive disincentive to a resource that is adding value to UK plc; 1.5 million freelancers are contributing more than £100 billion to the UK economy.  We want to encourage this flexible resource to grow and thrive, not punish them so that it has the opposite effect of driving them out of contracting and even out of the UK altogether.

About the author:

Dave Chaplin is the founder and CEO of ContractorCalculator.co.uk, www.contractorcalculator.co.uk, an online resource for freelancers and contractors that has become the expert guide to contracting.  Dave has recently published the second edition of The Contractors’ Handbook which provides all the advice freelancers and contractors need whether they are new to contracting or experienced old-hands.