Capricorn to back Pizza Express take-private

The international private equity investor is backing co-founder Hugh Osmond in a £250m public-to-private for the high street pizza chain.

Capricorn Ventures, the mid-market private equity house, has joined forces with Pizza Express co-founder Hugh Osmond to launch a takeover offer for struggling pizza restaurant chain Pizza Express.


Sun Capital Partners, Hugh Osmond’s vehicle, and Capricorn, have set up Twigway, an acquisition vehicle that has tabled an indicative offer of between 330-350 pence per share for the company which has fallen from a high last year of just under £10 per share to 244 pence last month, following a series of lower-than-expected performance figures. The shares closed last night at 351 pence.


Established in 1966, Pizza Express enjoyed sustained growth over three decades, increasing its number of restaurants to over 300, including restaurants in Japan, Russia, India and France. However an increase in competition in the company’s domestic market has resulted in poorer performance over the past 18 months.


Capricorn Ventures seeks investments across a range of consumer related sectors, including financial services, restaurants food and beverages. It seeks opportunities in the UK, Africa, Australasia and the USA, typically investing up to £50m. The firm controls a majority stake in Nandos International, which operates 380 chicken restaurants worldwide.


Hugh Osmond, who left Pizza Express five years ago to build up the Punch Taverns pub business, is making the offer through Sun Capital Partners, an acquisition vehicle founded in July 2001 by a team who have led and managed leisure retail transactions over the last five years with a total value in excess of £6bn.