updated 10/21/2005 6:02:07 PM ET 2005-10-21T22:02:07

Three private-equity investment firms have jointly bid to buy the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts and two other restaurant chains that are being sold by France’s Pernod Ricard SA, two sources involved in the process said Friday.

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The equal partners in the bid are Boston-based Bain Capital, Washington, D.C.-based Carlyle Group and Boston’s Thomas H. Lee Partners, said the sources, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because their firms do not publicly comment on investment deals before they are finalized.

The consortium submitted a bid for all three properties of Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Brands Inc. Wednesday, the deadline for bids set by Pernod Ricard, the sources said.

The sources declined to discuss other details of the bid, including the offering price for Dunkin’ Donuts, the smaller Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain and sandwich maker Togo’s.

Media reports have also indicated another bid for Dunkin’ Brands has been made jointly by the Blackstone Group and Texas Pacific Group, which purchased the Burger King chain in 2002 as part of an investment group that also included Bain Capital.

A spokesman for Pernod Ricard declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Brands. Representatives for JPMorgan, the investment bank hired by Pernod Ricard to handle the auction process for Dunkin’ Brands, as well as Thomas H. Lee and Texas Pacific declined to comment.

A spokesman for New York-based Blackstone Group did not immediately return a call Friday.
Pernod Ricard picked up Dunkin’ Brands in July in the liquor distributor’s $13 billion deal to acquire Britain’s Allied Domecq PLC.

Pernod Ricard said when the deal closed that it expected to unload Dunkin’ Brands by the end of the year because the restaurants don’t fit in with Pernod Ricard’s liquor business. Pernod Ricard also said it needed cash from a sale to finance its acquisition of Allied Domecq.

Industry analysts expect plenty of interest because of the Dunkin’ Donuts chain’s fast growth. Dunkin’ Donuts’ $3.4 billion in U.S. revenue last year was a 13 percent increase over the previous year — more than double the 5.4 percent growth for the U.S. food service industry.

Recent growth at the 55-year-old franchise chain has largely come from coffee sales and an expanded beverage menu that includes espresso and iced drinks.

Together, Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Togo’s accounted for $4.8 billion in global revenue last year.

Dunkin’ Donuts says its more than 6,000 stores worldwide in 30 countries draw more than 2.7 million customers per day. Over 4,400 of those stores are spread across 36 U.S. states. The greatest concentration is in New England, but Dunkin’ is expanding westward and has a long-term goal of growing to 15,000 locations.

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