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An offer on the table over future of Pizza Express.

Restaurant chain Pizza Express could be led back to the stock market by one of the co-founders of Carphone Warehouse.

David Ross, who helped turn Carphone Warehouse into a major force on the high street, is understood to be chewing over an offer to become chairman of Pizza Express and ASK owner Altia Holdings.

It comes as investment bank Merrill Lynch conducts a strategic review of Altia that is expected to result in either a flotation or refinancing, according to The Times.

Talks between Mr Ross and private equity firm TDR Capital, which controls Altia, are believed to have gone on for several weeks. Earlier this month, Mr Ross sold shares worth pounds 10m in Carphone Warehouse, which he set up with chief executive Charles Dunstone 16 years ago.

TDR bought Pizza Express, which has 300 UK outlets, for pounds 278m in partnership with Capricorn Ventures in 2003. There followed a deal in 2004 for the 180-strong chain of restaurants trading as ASK or Zizzi, enabling Capricorn and TDR to enhance its purchasing power and strip out costs.

Like-for-like sales figures earlier this year showed Pizza Express enjoying double-digit percentage growth.

Autumn is seen as the most probable date for a stock market return, with Pizza Express likely to have a value of between pounds 800m and pounds 1bn, including debt.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 30, 2005
Words:221
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