Pizza Express duo to raise £7m for new restaurant group

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The Independent Online

David Page and Paul Campbell, the duo who helped to build Pizza Express into a national chain, are raising an extra £7m to help fund their new restaurant venture, Clapham House Group.

David Page and Paul Campbell, the duo who helped to build Pizza Express into a national chain, are raising an extra £7m to help fund their new restaurant venture, Clapham House Group.

The company, formed by Mr Page to buy fledgling restaurant chains, is boosting its war chest by issuing 5 million new shares at 140p to selected institutional investors. It plans to use the cash to acquire small restaurant chains that it can transform into one of its brands.

Mr Page raised £14.5m when he floated Clapham House as a shell company on AIM last November. Since then he has acquired two nascent restaurant groups: The Real Greek Food Company, which owns the acclaimed restaurant in Hoxton, north London, and The Bombay Bicycle Club, a south London-based Indian takeaway chain. The group's shares, which were floated at 100p, yesterday shed 0.5p to 145p.

Mr Campbell, the chief executive, yesterday said the fund raising would enable it to pounce on strings of restaurants that have recently come on to the market. "We would like to buy one or two portfolio sites and convert them into our own brands," he said. A number of companies in the sector are consolidating their operations and looking to rationalise their estates, he added.

Clapham House's biggest institutional investors, such as Schroders, Gartmore, Framlington and the Shell pension trust, are all backing the placing, while a number of new institutions, including Newton, are taking the opportunity to acquire a holding.

Following the placing, which will expand the number of shares in issue by one third, Mr Page and Mr Campbell will still own 10 per cent of the company. Clapham House said that building up a property landbank would provide it with "a positive earnings stream more quickly than anticipated by the directors at the time of flotation". Any refurbishments would be done on a site-by-site basis, it added.

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