Exchange probes My Kinda Town

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The Independent Online
The Stock Exchange is investigating a sharp rise in the shares of My Kinda Town before the London-based theme restaurant chain revealed a fresh bid approach on Friday.

The announcement, forced by intervention of the Takeover Panel, followed a leap of over 10 per cent in the shares, by 16p to 163.5p, the previous day.

The company declined to identify the mystery suitor, but City speculation immediately centred on Rank or Baldwin, a small quoted holidays, printing and leisure group keen to expand its restaurants and bars operation.

Rank, which recently bought the Tom Cobleigh pubs group, immediately denied an approach, as did Whitbread, which has led consolidation in the sector, snapping up Pelican and Costa Coffee.

Chez Gerard, which held talks with My Kinda Town a year ago, also denied a renewed bid. Its chairman and chief executive Neville Abraham said he would monitor developments closely.

My Kinda Town runs 53 bars and restaurants in the UK and overseas, including the Henry J Bean's, Chicago Rib Shack and Chicago Pizza Pie Factory chains.

Baldwin meanwhile, tipped as a dark horse, runs the Muswells chain, Simpsons of Cornhill and the dell 'Ugo restaurants.

In a perfunctory statement, My Kinda Town said any offer "would be unlikely to be at a significant premium" to the current share price.

"That's City speak for not more than 180p," one analyst said. The shares closed up 8p at 171.5p, valuing the group at pounds 42.3m.

My Kinda Town looks set to be another money-spinner forLuke Johnson and Hugh Osmond. Both are also involved with the Pizza Express chain, which is buying in most of its remaining franchised operations in what many analysts believe is the prelude to a pounds 350m-plus sale in the future.

Brightreasons - the biggest privately-owned chain, which runs Pizzaland and Bella Pasta - has also been put up for sale.

Whitbread, which already runs Pizza Hut, is interested - but only in the sites - and believes it is worth nearer pounds 50m than the pounds 90m price tag demanded.