Are we finally coming to a decision in Pizza Express? Michael had the dough balls, but only tap water, Sinead had a thin crust Veneziana, Safaa had a salad (what is the point of that in a pizza place?) and Vernon went all out with olives, a bruschetta and an Margherita Bufala. We in the NTI newsroom consider this saga to be the only thing that has dragged on longer than the pan-bleeding-demic and we are sick of it, quite frankly.
The story so far: more than 89 per cent of creditors voted to support the CVA of the upmarket and up-itself-a-shade casual dining chain, which includes a cut in outstanding rent arrears, reduced rental agreements and a temporary move from quarterly to monthly rents. In other words, same ol', same ol'. 73 uneconomic outlets are to close, with the loss of up to 1,100 jobs. Lazard were given the job of seeking offers putting a higher value on the business than that implied by the debt-for-equity swap, but didn't do it terribly well, as none have been received, paving the way for the bondholders to take control (we wonder what Lazard are being paid for that? Who reckons they are saying: "... tell you what, get us a couple of Calbreses and a bottle of house white, and we'll call it quits.").
All this means that, hot out of the pizza oven, Pizza Express is set to be taken over by its bondholders after the sale process faltered over those rather nice slow roasted tomatoes and polenta chips. The deal on the table now (if you wouldn't mind moving your bags devoid of offers, madam) involves Hony Capital, the private equity firm based in Beijing, handing over the keys to the restaurant chain via a debt-for-equity swap, although they are expected to retain control of Pizza Express’s operations in mainland China, where they will not be selling American Hots because of the tariffs Donald Trump has put on them. A vote of all bondholders to approve the debt-for-equity swap is due to take place next month, and we can all get on with looking down our noses at Pizza Hut again.
Could we see the pudding menu?