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What the weekend papers say

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A round-up of the weekend’s news affecting the hospitality industry…

Restaurant group denies MBO rumours
Fish! The AIM-listed restaurant operator, has insisted that it is not considering a management buyout, despite a collapse in market sentiment on the back of poor trading. Shares in the group have fallen from 223½p last June to 72p. Plans to open 12 new restaurants this year have been scaled back to just five restaurants. – The Times, 23 February

McDonalds overtaken by Subway sandwiches in the USA
Britain is going off the burger in favour of apparently healthier options. Profits at Burger King are down by 29% to £79m, while McDonald’s consumers are turning away from red meat. It mirrors a shift in the USA, where  McDonald’s has been overtaken in terms of number of outlets by sandwich firm Subway. UK sales of beefburgers now account for only 54% of McDonald’s “sandwich” sales, equivalent to the figure in 1997 when BSE fears were at their height. McDonald’s in the UK is so concerned that for the first time in more than a decade, it is running TV commercials to rehabilitate the burger. – Daily Mail, 23 February

Punch to delay flotation plans
Punch Pub Company is preparing to delay its £2b flotation until the autumn to enable it to bid for Nomura’s remaining pub assets, which were put up for sale recently. Punch is weighing up a bid for the Nomura business, which comprises the Voyager and Unique estates, and believes a successful acquisition would push back its float, expected to be one of the biggest of the year, until the autumn at the earliest. Punch’s original intention was to float in May or June. – Sunday Telegraph, 24 February

Enterprise Inns put Nomura bid together
Enterprise Inns is believed to be putting together a £2b bid for Nomura’s Unique and Voyager pub chains, which if successful would take the Enterprise estate to 7,800 pubs. Pubmaster has ruled itself out of the bidding for the Nomura pubs. – Mail on Sunday, 24 February

Wagamama chain for sale?
Wagamama, the Japanese noodle bar chain, is poised to be put up for sale by Graphite Capital, the venture capitalist which owns a majority stake in the restaurant group. Industry experts estimate it could be worth up to £50m. Graphite, which is understood to own around 94% of Wagamama, is close to appointing advisers to auction the group. Possible bidders are understood to include McDonald’s, the burger chain, and City Centre Restaurants, owner of the Wok Wok chain of Chinese restaurants. – Sunday Telegraph, 24 February

Scotsman Hotel Group expanding again
Robert Breare, chairman of the Scotsman Hotel Group, is to hit the acquisition trail with the aim of opening more of the luxury hotels in Europe’s capital cities. The group, which owns the Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh, is already considering sites as it prepares for the opening in June of its second five-star property, La Tremoille, in Paris. Said Breare: “We are looking at something in Milan quite closely and we are just into something in London at the moment. That will be an acquisition programme that will be picking up speed.” Breare added the hotel company aims to have between six and eight hotels across Europe. – Scotland on Sunday, 24 February

City waits for Hilton results
When David Michels unveils Hilton’s full-year results this Thursday, City pundits who follow the leisure company’s fortunes will be less concerned with the figures and more interested in what its chief executive says about how the business is faring today. Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September there has been a huge drop in international travel, but industry analysts are starting to believe that the worst may be over and they will be studying Hilton’s news closely. – Sunday Times, 24 February

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