Milano pizza chain swings back into profit, bolstered by Covid grants



The company behind the Milano pizza chain business in Ireland swung back into the black in its most recent financial year as Covid restrictions were eased.

he firm, Agenbite, posted a €2.6m pre-tax profit in the year to January 2, compared with a €13.3m loss in the previous 53-week period.

The company also received €4.1m in government grants during the most recent period, compared with €1.2m the previous year, newly-filed accounts show.

The company noted that during the first half of 2021, the outlook for the business “remained difficult to predict”, due to continuing restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

It pointed out that indoor dining did not resume until near the end of last summer and applied only to those who were fully vaccinated or had recovered from the virus. When the Omicron variant emerged towards the end of last year, fresh restrictions were introduced.

Revenue at the company jumped to €12.2m in the latest period from €9.7m in the previous financial year.

Excluding the government grants the chain in Ireland received last year, it would have posted a €350,000 operating profit, compared with €5.2m when the grants were included.

The restaurant business is owned by UK-based PizzaExpress.

During the pandemic, it unveiled a major restructuring plan aimed at rescuing the group. It had been under financial stress even before the pandemic began.

It completed the restructuring process in November 2020, which handed control and ownership of the restaurant chain to lenders.

It saw holders of PizzaExpress’ £465m (€550m) of unsecured notes seize control via a debt-for-equity swap.

They took control of the business from China’s Hony Capital, which had bought PizzaExpress in 2014,

Existing shareholders of the group’s £200m of separate unsecured notes were entitled to take a minority stake in the restructured company.

The deal slashed debt at PizzaExpress from £735m to £319m and involved the injection of £40m of fresh capital and an additional £90m of credit available from the new owners.

PizzaExpress also underwent a Company Voluntary Arrangement process in the UK, which is typically used to reduce rents or end leases on existing units.

Restaurants are facing significant challenges due to staff shortages and soaring energy costs.

But figures from Revolut this week showed that spending at restaurants in Ireland jumped 11.3pc in July compared with June.

Runaway inflation is certain to see consumers rein in discretionary spending, however, especially as they face rocketing power bills in coming months.

The 13.5pc Vat rate that normally applies to the restaurant sector was cut to 9pc after 2020 as part of fiscal packages designed to help businesses survive the pandemic.

The rate was due to revert to 13.5pc next month. However, in May the Government said the reduced rate would apply until early next year, at a cost of €200m to the Exchequer.



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