Pressure mounting on Wagamama owner as another shareholder calls for change

15 May 2023 by
Pressure mounting on Wagamama owner as another shareholder calls for change

A row amongst shareholders of Wagamama owner the Restaurant Group (TRG) is continuing to build ahead of its annual meeting next Tuesday.

New York-based investor Coltrane Asset Management, which holds a 3% stake, is the latest to call for change at the company.

It said TRG needed to be "open to all strategic options" as there was "significant value" that could be unlocked at the company, the Sunday Times reported.

TRG owns more than 400 UK restaurants under brands including Frankie & Benny's, Chiquito, Coast to Coast, Firejacks, and pub group Brunning and Price. It acquired Wagamama for £559m in 2018.

Several investors are threating a revolt at Tuesday's meeting with plans to vote against the pay deal for executives including CEO Andy Hornby.

Hornby received £792,000 last year and is eligible for a bonus worth up to 150% of his base salary.

However, TRG's share price has fallen by around 70% since Hornby took over in 2019.

Investors have publicly traded barbs over the state of the company ahead of its annual meeting.

Last month Oasis Capital Management, which has a 12.3% share in TRG, said Hornby's pay was "disproportionate" and "tone deaf". New York's Irenic Capital Management, which is understood to have around a 2.5% share, also said it plans to vote against the pay policy.

Shareholder advisory firm Glass Lewis recommended investors vote down the remuneration package in a legnthy research paper.

However, TRG received a boost last week when its largest shareholder Columbia Threadneedle Investments came out in support of the company. The investor, which holds a 19% stake, said it would back the board and management team amid an "exceptionally tough industry backdrop".

TRG also posted a first quarter trading update which showed like-for-like sales had risen 9% at Wagamama, 10% at its pub division Brunning and Price and 2% at its leisure arm, which includes Frankie & Benny's, Chiquito and Firejacks.

A spokesperson for TRG said: "We will continue to let our numbers do the talking."

In March, TRG said it planned to close up to 35 restaurants after pre-tax losses more than doubled to £86.8m, although the Wagamama brand will be unaffected.

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