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Spain's biggest pizza chain sells for €850m… For more hospitality stories, see what the weekend papers say

24 July 2006

Spain's biggest pizza chain sells for €850m (£580m)
Independent on Sunday, 23 July

US hotel giant in bid talks for Whitbread Starwood Capital, the giant US hotel and property group, is in talks with advisers about launching a £3b plus takeover bid for Whitbread, which operates TGI Friday's and Pizza Hut in the UK and owns Premier Travel Inn hotels. Starwood has long been seen as a potential suitor for Whitbread because of its experience running France's budget hotel chain, Societe du Louvre. Starwood also owns and operates 950 hotels worldwide, including brands such as Sheraton, Westin, St Regis and W Hotels.- Mail on Sunday, 23 July

Canalside pub development planned for Scotland
A string of canal-side pubs will open as part of plans to attract 30 million visitors each year to Scotland's inland waterways. Around a dozen new bars are proposed for canals between Edinburgh and Glasgow and in the Highlands to attract tourists. The project is being spearheaded by the Waterside Pub Partnership, a joint venture between British Waterways, which runs the canals, and Scottish & Newcastle. - The Scotsman, 22 July

M&B plan to return £500m to shareholders
Mitchells & Butlers, the public house operator, said that it still planned to return £500m to shareholders by the end of the year, despite confirmation that it is buying 239 pub-restaurants from Whitbread for £497m. The Times, 22 July

Record tourist spending in York
Visitor numbers to York were down last year but tourists spent more money in the city than ever before. New figures from York Tourism Bureau show for the first time annual income from tourism topped £300m, reaching £311.8m for 2005/6. - Yorkshire Post, 22 July

Fish restaurant founder to sell 50% stake
Andrew Cohen is selling his 50% stake in Fish Restaurant Group, owned jointly with celebrity chef Tony Allan. Cohen has hired Shelley Sandzer, a leisure property firm, to find a buyer for his shareholding. Allan founded the Fish chain in 1999 but it went into administration in 2002 after over-expanding. Allan and Cohen bought back six of the best sites for £1.8m, although only one survives today. The other sites were sold profitably. - Sunday Times, 23 July

VisitScotand to revamp website after bookings complaints
VisitScotland has embarked on a major shake-up of its tourism internet portal, aiming to address many of the criticisms laid at its door by smaller Scottish tourism businesses. It has signed a deal with Austrian web specialist Tiscover that is expected to lead to new services, including giving hotels, bed and breakfast establishments and guest houses the chance to take bookings through other channels such as LycosEurope. - Sunday Herald, 23 July

Welcome recovery at motorway chain
The motorway service-station chain Welcome Break will this week show it is on the road to recovery with much improved financial results. Overall, the business is still in the red, but pre-tax losses shrank to £5m in the year to September 2005, compared with £14.7m a year earlier. - Sunday Times, 23 July

Hotel group tipped to swallow Stobo Castle
Swallow Hotels is believed to be in talks to buy Stobo Castle, the luxury hotel in the Scottish Borders, for around £20m. Industry sources say Swallow wants to buy Stobo, then sell the resort to a property investor and lease it back. Swallow Hotels has ambitions to grow into one of the UK's leading hotels groups and said earlier this year that it planned to do this partly by expanding in Scotland. - Scotland on Sunday, 23 July

Bannatyne leads Livingwell race
Entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne has emerged as frontrunner in the race to acquire the Livingwell health-club chain from Hilton Hotels Corporation for about £80m. The Scot, who owns rival gym chain Bannatyne's Leisure, is said to be favourite to clinch the deal but he is not yet in exclusive talks. One other party is still thought to be in the auction. - Sunday Times, 23 July

By Bob Gledhill

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