Private Investor: Restaurant could be a Tasty earner

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The Independent Online

Who could fail to be attracted by a share called Tasty? It's an interesting little concern and it floated last week. It's had a pretty good run on its maiden journey, with the shares being chased all the way up to 110p. Now, either they were priced too low when they came on to the market or they are vastly overpriced now. Of the two you might think that the second was the more likely option.

I can't help feeling that, in a battle between the market professionals who were getting into the shares at 52p and the likes of me, paying a 111 per cent premium, it would be the professionals who are going to win.

Still, I've always been happy to take a punt on small restaurant chains, such as La Tasca and Clapham House. Catering is the toughest place you can imagine to make money, but if you do manage to hit on that elusive formula that captures the imagination of the public there's probably few better ways of turning a profit. This is where Tasty comes in.

Tasty, you see, does dim sum. Now you may or may not be familiar with the stuff or like it if you are. But it is trendy and it's got plenty of scope for growth. Then there's that name, Tasty. How can you go wrong? Well, if your food isn't tasty I suppose. I'll obviously have to organise a field visit, but I can't recall ever seeing a Tasty branch. I also like the idea of Tasty because the group is backed by the Kaye family, the people behind the ZiZi's and ASK restaurant chains. I once had ASK shares and was very happy with them until they were bought out.

Tasty's listed shares represent a very small free float, with more than 90 per cent of the company still owned by the family. Thus you have to accept a certain amount of illiquidity and volatility in the market, and the fact of the family as a hugely dominant influence.

Basically they can do what they want, and there is always the suspicion that floating a tiny sliver of shares is possibly just a way of them cashing in and getting their hands on some hard cash in case things go wrong. Or at least it could, theoretically, be the beginning of that process.

Anyway, no risk no gain and all that, so I've bought a few at 107p. All I need now is to try some of their dim sum. I'll let you know if I've made a financial or a culinary error, or both.

I trust, in any case, that Tasty run their little business better than BAA/Ferrovial are running the current takeover. Having foolishly missed the first deadline for the shares, I was told by the registrars that it was OK because Ferrovial had extended the offer. This week I discover that they've closed it again, without actually telling some of the large retail brokers (as a conversation with mine revealed). To add insult to injury, Ferrovial have also scrapped the "stub equity" company called Altitude, which would have enabled BAA shareholders to have some interest in what used to be their company.

What will now happen to those shareholders who accepted the offer and opted for shares in Altitude in part payment I do not know. My broker assured me that I would in due course see the cash for my BAA shares, so that's something. The last thing any of us want is to be marooned in some limbo company controlled by Ferrovial. It leaves a very bad memory of our experience owning BAA shares, rather like the one you're left with if you pass through Heathrow Terminal 4 in fact. So please, BAA/Ferrovial, sort yourselves out.

Which leaves just one more sour note; the takeover of Alliance & Leicester. It all shows that you oughtn't believe everything you read in the papers, I suppose. Having sold my (free) demutualisation shares in Alliance & Leicester for a good profit, I'm now left with a 16 per cent loss on the new shares I bought a few weeks ago greedily, in anticipation of an imminent bid for A&L.

There was talk of £15 a share. Now we're nearer £10. Doesn't anyone want it? Not even the Spanish?

s.ogrady@independent.co.uk

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