Pizza Ex­press hails CVA as a vi­tal step to pro­tect its fu­ture – but 73 sites are to close

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Hannah Ut­t­ley and Ben Gart­side

PIZZA EX­PRESS will shut 73 restau­rants, putting 1,100 jobs at risk af­ter land­lords backed a restruc­tur­ing bid to res­cue the strug­gling chain.

The firm will close poorly per­form­ing out­lets fol­low­ing the ap­proval of a com­pany vol­un­tary ar­range­ment deal by 89pc of cred­i­tors in a vote yes­ter­day. This in­cluded 63pc of land­lords, above the 50pc ap­proval thresh­old needed.

As well as al­low­ing Pizza Ex­press to close some of its 449 UK sites, the deal also means that its rental bills will be paid ev­ery month rather than quar­terly. A com­pany spokesman said: “The directors of Pizza Ex­press thank its cred­i­tors for their sup­port and look for­ward to on­go­ing part­ner­ship as the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try re­cov­ers.

“The CVA is a key com­po­nent of a wider fi­nan­cial restruc­tur­ing which will strengthen the busi­ness. The suc­cess­ful vote un­locks the com­pany’s abil­ity to ac­tively ad­dress the chal­lenges brought by Covid-19.”

The clo­sures are an­other ma­jor blow for the be­lea­guered restau­rant in­dus­try, and fol­low tens of thou­sands of job losses since the pan­demic hit. Pizza

Ex­press has said the cri­sis caused seri- ous dis­rup­tion to sales as lock­down shut its restau­rants and then left the pub­lic too fear­ful to re­turn in pre­vi­ous num­bers. The 55-year-old chain’s Chi­nese owner Hony Cap­i­tal has now put the ma­jor­ity of the busi­ness up for sale, with plans to re­tain own­er­ship of its main­land China di­vi­sion.

Pizza Ex­press said the CVA will se­cure 9,000 jobs in the UK. The restruc­tur­ing plans have an­gered some land­lords. In­dus­try groups have crit­i­cised the in­creas­ing trend of com­pa­nies at­tempt­ing to re­write their leases by en­ter­ing CVAs.

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