Could debt-laden Pizza Ex­press be the next ca­su­alty on the high street?

Daily Mail - - News - By Francesca Washtell City Cor­re­spon­dent

THE high street is poised for an­other blow fol­low­ing fears for the health of Pizza Ex­press.

Ques­tions are be­ing raised by in­dus­try sources about the abil­ity of the restau­rant chain to re­pay its debt. The com­pany, owned by the Chi­nese pri­vate eq­uity firm Hony Cap­i­tal, is due to re­pay around £650mil­lion over the next three years.

But its to­tal debt stands at more than £1bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the group’s 2017 an­nual re­port.

Pizza Ex­press faced in­ter­est costs of nearly £90mil­lion alone in 2017, when it made a £28.6mil­lion loss be­fore tax. A num­ber of restau­rant chains in­clud­ing By­ron Ham­burg­ers, Prezzo and Jamie’s Ital­ian were all forced to re­sort to rent re­struc­tur­ings known as com­pany vol­un­tary ar­range­ments last year.

It came as fig­ures show the num­ber of shop vis­i­tors in De­cem­ber fell by 2.6 per cent in a year amid a rise in in­ter­net sales. Shop­ping cen­tres were the worst hit, with a 3.9 per cent drop de­spite the Christ­mas sales, ac­cord­ing to data from the British Re­tail Con­sor­tium and mar­ket an­a­lysts Spring­board.

Diane Wehrle, of Spring­board, said the de­cline showed re­tail­ers can no longer rely on Christ­mas trad­ing to re­deem rev­enue lost ear­lier in the year. Pizza Ex­press de­clined to com­ment.

‘A per­cent­age of that dish is do­nated to the pizza ex­press In peril fund’

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