• Ask receives 25% profit boost for first six months of ''02

LONDON -- Ask Central, parent company of the Ask and Zizzi pizza chains, posted a profit increase of 25 percent for the first half of the year.

According to BBC News Online, Ask attributed its low exposure to tourists as a key contributor to its success. Its chief competitor, PizzaExpress, has been hurt by tourism declines in 2002, chiefly at its central London outlets.

Consequently, PizzaExpress' stock price has dropped nearly 80 percent this year, and the company is fielding buyout offers (See Bargain-hunting investor group bids low for PizzaExpress.)

A company report stated that Ask and Zizzi have suffered some from tourism declines as well, but that both brands have retained a large-enough British customer base to keep sales "robust."

In the six months ended June 30, pre-tax profits rose from £5.9 million to £7.6 million (U.S. $9.23 million to $11.9 million). The company opened 11 new restaurants to give it a total of 137 sites throughout the UK.

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