Capricorn, TDR to launch higher Pizza offer

Capricorn Ventures and TDR Capital have held talks with PizzaExpress directors over an improved bid for the UK pizza chain.

TDR Capital, the mid-market buyout fund set up last year by former DB Capital Partners director Manjit Dale, is leading a bid for UK restaurant chain PizzaExpress that would see it exceed the current £266m or 367 pence per share offer from Luke Johnson and ABN Amro Capital.


Alongside consumer-oriented private equity investor Capricorn Ventures, TDR Capital has secured financing for the deal, which will be provided by HBOS Bank. The two firms are currently in talks with PizzaExpress directors about the offer.


Manjit Dale, formerly a senior figure in Deutsche Bank’s London-based captive buyout operation, is currently raising a new E500m mid-market buyout fund via TDR Capital. Tudor Investment Corporation, the Boston-based hedge fund manager, has already agreed to make a E160m cornerstone investment in the fund.


Capricorn Ventures invests across a range of consumer related sectors, including financial services, restaurants, food and beverages. It controls a majority stake in Nandos International, which operates 380 chicken restaurants worldwide, and last November agreed to back Hugh Osmond with a 330-350 pence indicative offer for PizzaExpress.


Late last month, ABN Amro Capital joined forces with former PizzaExpress directors Luke Johnson and Ian Eldridge to launch a recommended cash offer for UK-listed restaurant group PizzaExpress. The offer pipped a 350 pence per share offer from PAI Management and PizzaExpress director David Page.


PizzaExpress shares are currently trading at 376.5 pence per share, 2.5 per cent higher than the ABN Amro offer, prompting analysts to predict that a higher offer is inevitable.