TDR Capital pursues second restaurant deal

The UK-based private equity firm has confirmed that it is evaluating a possible offer for ASK, the UK restaurant chain, at a premium to the £168m offer made by City Centre Restaurants last month.

TDR Capital, the UK mid-market private equity firm backed by Boston-based hedge fund manager Tudor Investment Corporation, is planning a second raid on the London Stock Exchange for a quoted UK restaurant chain.


Following its successful bid for Pizza Express last year, the firm has confirmed that it is considering plans to make an offer for ASK Central Plc, the UK pizza and pasta chain which opened its doors in 1993.


If TDR proceeds with plans for an offer, the firm will have to trump the 177 pence per share offer already on the table from rival chain City Centre Restaurants, the UK-based group which includes the Est Est Est and Caffe Uno brands. The 177 pence offer values the business at £168 million ($307 million; €241 million). Last Friday, ASK was trading at 185.5 pence per share, suggesting that investors expected a higher offer to emerge.


In the first half of 2003, ASK, which floated on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in September 1995, reported group turnover of £51.2 million, up 13 percent on the previous year. Pre-tax profit was up twelve percent at £8.5 million. The company currently owns and operates over 155 pizza and pasta restaurants around the UK.


TDR is being advised on the offer by Merrill Lynch.


In May 2003, TDR Capital lodged a successful £277 million bid for Pizza Express in conjunction with South African private equity firm Capricorn Ventures International. Manjit Dale, formerly a senior figure in Deutsche Bank’s London-based captive buyout operation, DB Capital Partners, is currently raising a debut E500m mid-market buyout fund for the firm, backed by a €160 million cornerstone investment from Tudor Investment Corporation.