• PizzaExpress denies buyout rumors while stock rises

LONDON -- As rumors of a management buyout (MBO) of PizzaExpress circulated through UK stock-trading circles, the company's shares rose 37-1/2 to 320p (U.S. $4.97) during early trading on Sept 23.

According to The Business, PizzaExpress CEO and chairman, David Page, is in discussions with private equity houses to find backing for an estimated £300 million (U.S. $466 million) MBO bid.

However, a Reuters report cited a PizzaExpress spokeswoman who dismissed the rumors.

"The MBO story is pure speculation," the unidentified spokeswoman said. "My understanding is they've never met those companies. It's just market speculation.

"They (management) have been doing investor meetings, but that's on the back of the results. They've been going around seeing the usual investors and shareholders."

A sharp decline in tourism following last year's terrorist attacks on the U.S. has lowered sales at PizzaExpress stores located in London's city center.

The company's share prices have dropped 68 percent since the beginning of the year from 894p (U.S. $13.91), to last week's close of 282-1/2p (U.S. $4.40).

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