July 17, 2020 / 9:36 PM / 21 days ago

Owner of Zizzi and Ask Italian restaurant chains to close 75 branches

(Reuters) - Azzurri Group, the owner of Zizzi and Ask Italian restaurant chains, said late on Friday it has been bought by London-based investment management company TowerBrook Capital Partners in a deal that would close 75 of its branches, putting 1,200 jobs at risk in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak.

Azzurri, which employs over 6,000 people, said the deal was implemented as part of its insolvency process for which TowerBrook has committed over 70 million pounds, enabling the business to restructure its balance sheet.

The company said in an emailed statement that it had appointed KPMG as an adviser for evaluation of its operational and financial position, which led to its deal with TowerBrook.

The statement added that the company was planning to reopen 40 Ask Italian and Zizzi restaurants next week.

The coronavirus outbreak has taken a toll on restaurants and restaurant chains across the world due to government restrictions on people’s movements as well as consumer fears about large public gatherings.

“The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound impact on the casual dining sector, bringing many businesses like ours to a standstill,” Azzurri Chief Executive Steve Holmes said.

In recent weeks, Britain has eased lockdown restrictions as infection rates have fallen, but the government has said it must now begin to prepare for a potential second peak over the winter.

Britain is the worst-affected country in Europe by COVID-19 with a death toll from confirmed cases of more than 45,000.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler and Sonya Hepinstall

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