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EDITIONS
Monday, 4 November, 2002, 16:54 GMT
Former owner stalks Pizza Express
Pizza Express restaurant, Leicester Square
Pizza Express is being pursued by its former owner
Restaurant group Pizza Express has received a takeover offer from a group of investors that includes its former owner, Hugh Osmond.

Hugh Osmond
Ran a nightclub in Los Angeles in early 1980s
Bought Pizza Express with fellow entrepreneur Luke Johnson for 15m in 1992
Floated Pizza Express in 1993, sold out in 1997 when firm was worth 150m
Formed pub group Punch Taverns in 1997; partly floated it in May 2002
Now runs investment group Sun Capital Partners
Personal wealth estimated at 136m by Sunday Times
Believed to be anti-euro
The consortium, called Twigway, appears to have spotted an investment opportunity after noting the recent decline in Pizza Express' shares, according to a filing with London Stock Exchange.

Twigway is a newly formed company established by the shareholders of two venture capital firms, Sun Capital Partners and Capricorn Ventures International.

Mr Osmond, who owns Sun Capital and also founded the pub group Punch Pub Company, first bought Pizza Express in the early 1990s for 15m.

News of the buyout bid comes just days after the pizza chain reported dwindling sales for its core restaurants and said it would refurbish old outlets in a bid to boost custom.

The restaurant group, which has over 300 outlets in the UK, initially announced the takeover on Monday morning, following a sharp rise in its share price in the last week.

Shares have jumped from 245p to 320p since the start of October, as speculation mounted over a possible offer.

By the close, they were trading up 27p at 347p.

On the menu

Pizza Express, which started with just one restaurant in London in the 1960s, said the offer it had received was between 330p and 350p per share, valuing the group at 251m.


Wait and see if this move does not shake out a bid that more accurately values the business

Greg Feehely, Old Mutual Securities

However, shares are still way off their 920p value at the start of the year.

The company told investors to take no action at this point and leisure analyst Greg Feehely at Old Mutual Securities said it might be worth holding out for a higher offer.

"[We] would advise shareholders to wait and see if this move does not shake out a bid that more accurately values the business," said Mr Feehely.

Capricorn Ventures is also the largest investor in the Nando's chain of restaurants.

Take the cash?

The bid follows a year of dwindling sales and, until recently, a slump in the value of its shares.

The group also owns the Cafe Pasta chain and has begun selling its own-brand pizzas through supermarkets.

Pizza Express outlet on Wardour Street
Pizza Express started life in London in the 1960s
Once the darling of the restaurant sector, Pizza Express has admitted tough trading this year following a slump in tourist numbers and the downturn in the economy.

Chief executive Ian Eldridge left unexpectedly in February, and analysts have continually reduced their expectations following his departure.

James Ainley, leisure analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, told BBC News Online that accepting the offer looked "quite a sensible thing to do".

Mr Ainley said Pizza Express had been "pumping a lot of capital" into its business but added:

"I'm not convinced that the market hasn't moved on."

See also:

09 Oct 02 | Business
10 Sep 02 | Business
05 Sep 02 | Business
24 Jul 02 | Business
05 Feb 01 | Business
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