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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 17:09 GMT
Pizza chain shrugs off economy woes
Pizza Express: Aiming for continued growth
UK restaurant chain Pizza Express has reported higher profits despite a sharp drop in tourist numbers in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

The company said pre-tax profits for the second half of 2001 jumped 12% on the year to 21.8m, fuelled by new menu items and strategic restaurant openings.

Investors in London reacted cautiously to the figures, sending Pizza Express shares 22.5p lower to 807.5p by close of trade on Monday.

Sales at the company's core UK and Irish restaurants edged up 3% compared with the same period the year before, while total revenues rose by 16% to 103.8m.

Pizza Express chief executive David Page said the higher profits and sales came despite a "difficult trading environment" due to the economic downturn and the post-11 September slump in tourist numbers.

New ventures

The company warned in October last year that sales growth at its key London restaurants had fallen off sharply as free-spending overseas visitors stayed at home.

But a strong performance at new restaurants outside London helped to offset slower sales growth in the capital, Pizza Express said.

New product launches include a range of ready-made pizzas, garlic bread and doughballs, sold at selected branches of the J Sainsbury supermarket chain.

And a new chain of take-away pizza outlets, trading under the name Pizza Express To Go, are a "profitable and exciting growth opportunity," the company said.

US exit

But Pizza Express's said its overseas operations - comprising four restaurants in Spain and one in Japan - have yet to turn a profit.

Last year, Pizza Express was forced to close down two restaurants in the US, blaming "continuing trading losses."

However, the company's 33 overseas franchised restaurants - based in Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Cyprus and Poland - collectively made a "small" profit.

The company currently has a total of 287 Pizza Express restaurants in the UK and Ireland, and is aiming for a total of 500. It also plans to expand its Cafe Pasta chain from just 14 currently to 100.

See also:

03 Jan 02 | Business
Pizza chain sees topping year
02 Sep 01 | Business
Investors turn to beer and pizza
03 Sep 01 | Business
Pizza demand boosts profits
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