Middle Eastern group pays £90m for Carluccio's chain

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The Independent Online

Carluccio's, the Italian-themed restaurant operator, has agreed to a £90.3m takeover by a Middle Eastern retail group that could net Richard Caring, its biggest shareholder and owner of the Ivy restaurant in London, a huge payout.

Landmark Group, whose chairman is Micky Jagtiani, one of Asia's richest men, has bid 142p a share for Carluccio's, which is a 48 per cent premium to the closing price on Wednesday.

Landmark, which owns 5.1 per cent of Carluccio's and operates three of its franchise shops in Dubai, first appeared on the chain's share register in December last year. The operator of more than 900 stores in 15 countries, Landmark was attracted to the rollout opportunities at Carluccio's in the UK, where it has more than 40 outlets, and overseas. It has also traded robustly through the recession, partly as it is open for breakfast through to dinner. Carluccio's also has a retail offer, which benefits the chain at Christmas.

Mr Caring, who also owns the Belgo and Strada restaurant chains and holds about 12.5 per cent of Carluccio's, is reported not to have been among the shareholders who has backed the bid. However, Landmark has secured the support of investors with 31.4 per cent of the company, including management.

Shares in Carluccio's jumped 45p, or 46 per cent, to 141p. The acquisition caps a meteoric rise for the chain founded by the TV chef Antonio Carluccio in 1999 and then floated in 2005. While Mr Carluccio no longer holds any shares in Carluccio's, he is still retained as a consultant who advises the team on menu development and chef training. In January 2007, he received an OBE for his services to the industry.

The humble son of a railway station master who was born in the Italian province of Salerno, Mr Carluccio first moved to London in 1975.

Mr Caring, who also owns the London nightclub Annabel's, has a fortune of more than £350m, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

David Bernstein, Carluccio's senior independent director, said the offer represents an "attractive premium" for shareholders.

Mr Jagtiani, who is worth $2.65bn according to the Arabian business survey, said: "Carluccio's constitutes one of the leading UK restaurant chains within its all-day dining niche. We are encouraged by Carluccio's resilient performance during a turbulent economic period."