Sunday Papers Roundup
Pizza Hut UK makes progress under new ownership, £2bn float for fast food giant SSP, Prezzo wants a big slice of Strada, Liberty owner in £20m rescue bid for Mamas & Papas, Debenhams sizes up finance chief, US pharmacy giant Walgreens eyes move to Britain over tax: Controversial switch of HQ may lead to Boots takeover Comet collapse sparks fresh calls for urgent review of debt laws
Operating losses have narrowed at the 300-strong restaurant chain although sales were dented by a reduction in promotional activity. Pizza Hut UK, which was bought by private equity group Rutland Partners from US giant Yum! Brands in 2012, has further narrowed losses as it pushes ahead with a £60m refurbishment programme. Operating losses reduced to £1.7 million in the year to December 1 2013 from £4.4m previously although sales fell 14pc to £230m as the chain reined in aggressive discounting, which became commonplace in the casual dining sector during the economic downturn.
SSP hopes to raise up to £500m from 25pc stake, heralding Kate Swann's stock market return. The catering giant behind some of Britain's best known fast food outlets is poised to unveil plans for a bumper £2bn summer float. SSP, which owns more than 2,000 train station and airport fast food outlets including Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza, is expected to announce the plans this week in a formal announcement to the stockmarket. A listing would herald a swift return to the City for chief executive Kate Swann, who left WH Smith last year.
Prezzo is understood to be among pack of suitors assembling bids for the restaurant chain. The Italian restaurant chain, is weighing up a cut-price takeover of Strada, its high street rival. It is being hived off by parent company Tragus as part of a giant financial restructuring likely to trigger hundreds of job losses. Apollo is now planning a sweeping overhaul of Tragus that would see scores of creditors and landlords left out of pocket. The American investor is looking to offload Strada, which has 70 sites, through a pre-pack administration that would see it walk away from its debts.
The owner of Liberty, London's 140-year old luxury department store, is in talks to rescue Mamas & Papas, the upmarket prams and maternity wear chain. BlueGem, a private equity firm, is understood to be closing in on a deal that would inject a total of £20m into the retailer. Around £12m has been earmarked for the business, with the remainder expected to be used to pay off a shareholder loan to David Scacchetti, who founded the Huddersfield-based chain with his wife, Luisa, in 1981
The Sunday Times
The former finance director of the fashion chain New Look is among a handful of candidates competing for a key job at Debenhams, which issued a painful profit warning after Christmas. Alastair Miller, who left the private equity-owned retailer in April after 14 years, is in the running to succeed Simon Herrick as Debenhams’ finance director. Herrick resigned in January after hitting suppliers with a “Santa tax”, a one-off fee worth 2.5% of outstanding payments, and shocking the stock market by saying profits would be almost a quarter lower than last year.
Mail on Sunday
American pharmacy giant Walgreens may move to Britain for tax purposes as part of a $100billion (£62.5billion) restructuring that could include the acquisition of Boots. The plan to switch its tax domicile is an endorsement of Chancellor George Osborne’s controversial low-corporation tax policy and it follows a proposal by the US drugs firm Pfizer to move here for tax purposes as part of its failed attempt to acquire AstraZeneca.
The Government was last night facing fresh calls for an urgent review of Britain’s insolvency laws after a damning report emerged over the collapse of electrical goods chain Comet. Last week’s judgment from an employment tribunal said accountancy giant Deloitte did not follow proper procedures when carrying out Comet’s administration. More than 6,000 staff lost their jobs while Comet’s owners, including OpCapita, the private equity vehicle run by millionaire investor Henry Jackson, recouped an estimated £117million.
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