The restaurant chain Pizza Express - which owns Milano in Ireland - has been sold to a Chinese firm for around £900m, following "considerable interest" in the business.

The British Gondola Group confirmed the sale to private equity firm Hony Capital.

There are 12 Milanos in Ireland, with 436 Pizza Express restaurants in Britain and 68 internationally - including 22 in China - employing more than 9,000 workers.

Pizza Express already has 12 restaurants in Hong Kong and nine in Shanghai, as well as outlets in India, Saudi Arabia and Bali. 

The sale comes as The Gondola Group - which also owns pizza chains Zizzi and ASK Italian - opened the first Pizza Express restaurant in the Chinese capital Beijing earlier this year.

It follows other big Chinese purchases of British brands, including China's Bright Food buying a controlling stake in Weetabix.