Business news in brief: KFC| Odeon| Oasis Healthcare| Lenovo

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FAST-FOOD chain KFC is to create 1,600 jobs in the UK and Ireland this year as part of the group’s rollout of 40 new outlets.

Martin Shuker, managing director of KFC’s business in the UK and Ireland, said the expansion would be at least as big as last year’s programme, which was its busiest ever.

It will take the number of outlets to nearly 900, and follows seven years of consistent sales and profits growth at the chain.

The group is owned by Yum! Brands, and analysts say it is benefiting from the tough economic backcloth.

Odeon sales rise but earnings dip

THE Odeon cinema group’s trading in 2012 was hit by the double whammy of the popularity of the Olympic Games and one of the wettest years on record.

The chain’s underlying earnings before interest, tax and one-off charges fell 3 per cent to £90.8 million despite a 4 per cent rise in sales to £724m.

Like-for-like earnings, stripping out any new cinema spaces opened or closed, slid 10 per cent to £82.3m as major films such as The Dark Knight Rises vied for viewers with the Olympics and European football championships.

Private equity deal sealed for Oasis

OASIS Healthcare, one of Britain’s biggest independent dental chains, is set to announce this week that it has been snapped up by Bridgepoint, the City of London private equity firm, for £185 million.

Bridgepoint, whose other businesses include high street retailer Pret A Manger, is understood to have hammered out the deal with Oasis’s owners, rival private equity group Duke Street Capital, which will retain a minority stake.

Other losing suitors are believed to have included CapVest and Canada’s Omers Private Equity.

Smartphone market in Lenovo’s sights

CHINESE tech giant Lenovo, already vying with Hewlett Packard to be the biggest PC maker in the world, has said it wants to start selling its first smartphones in either the UK or mainland Europe in 2014.

Lenovo said at the weekend that it wanted a new global design centre to help it create handsets that can compete with Apple and Samsung.

“Whether it is Germany first or the UK first, I will tell you in about six to nine months time from now,” Gianfranco Lanci, president of the group’s European, Middle East and African business, said.