Livebait owner buys Caffé Uno for £33m

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The Independent Online

The Restaurant Group (TRG) - the owner of chains such as Chiquito, Garfunkel's and Frankie & Benny's - sold its 58-strong network of Caffé Uno restaurants for £33m yesterday, promising to return the proceeds to shareholders during the second quarter of next year.

The new owners of the Caffé Uno chain will be Paramount Restaurants, which owns the Chez Gérard and Livebait brands. Paramount was bought by Dawnay Day and JOHCM Private Equity this year.

TRG said it was selling Caffé Uno to focus on its out-of-town restaurant businesses, saying it believed trading on the high street had become too unpredictable in recent years.

Andrew Page, the group managing director, said the high street was extremely competitive and that he was concerned an increasing number of families were staying away from centre-of-town restaurants as they did not feel safe in those areas in the evenings. "What we're left with is a business with a strong presence away from the high street," he said. "The rest is out-of-town and concessional locations where there is a better quality of earnings and less volatility of cash flows."

Mr Page said the company planned to return up to £35m to shareholders next year, which he said would leave TRG with adequate resources to continue growing organically. He said it intended to continue rolling out 20 to 30 restaurants a year under its remaining brands.

Shares in TRG rose 4 per cent in early trade yesterday, before closing up just 0.7p at 142p, giving the company a market value of £304m.