• PizzaExpress posts numbers, loses executive

LONDON - In a day of mixed results for UK-based restaurant chain PizzaExpress, the company announced a double-digit increase in first-half net profit on Feb. 11, but also disclosed that chief executive Ian Eldridge is leaving the company.

Eldridge has been replaced by PizzaExpress United States chairman David Page. No explanation was given for Eldridge's sudden resignation. In other moves, company deputy chairman Nigel Colne has been named non-executive chairman, and John Metcalf, who was responsible for the company's wholesale and retail divisions, has added the international division to his portfolio.

For the sixth-month period ending Dec. 31, 2001, the company announced a net profit of $20.8 million (14.7 million British pounds), up 14.8 percent from the same period a year earlier. During the period, PizzaExpress was forced to absorb a $1 million loss by shutting down its San Marzano division in the U.S.

The results met analyst expectations, but just barely. Analysts had predicted a pretax profit of 21 million to 22.5 million pounds, with PizzaExpress coming in at 21.1 million pounds.

Company officials said PizzaExpress is examining growth opportunities within and outside the UK, including France and Spain.

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