• PizzaExpress directors to talk with new bidders

LONDON -- The takeover battle for PizzaExpress will intensify this week when the 311-store chain's directors discuss an offer from venture capital firms TDR Capital and Capricorn Ventures International.

According to The Telegraph, the offer is expected to be significantly higher than a 367 pence-per-share offer by Luke Johnson and backed by Venice Bidder.

Shares of PizzaExpress sold at times last week for more than 380 pence (U.S. $6.09) in anticipation of a higher offer, but closing price for the week was 376 pence (U.S. $6.02).

Its shares have plummeted from 921 pence (U.S. $14.75) last year.

The TDR consortium has financial backing from HBOS, a bank.

TDR, founded by Manjit Dale, wants to keep the PizzaExpress business intact, including its overseas operations and other non-core businesses. Johnson has suggested he would sell the overseas business were he to gain control.

Dale is an associate of Hugh Osmond, the entrepreneur who, along with Johnson, founded and took PizzaExpress public. Following the float of the chain, Johnson and Osmond split as business partners.

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