IRC chief content with steady trading

Individual Restaurant Company, the Manchester-based operator of 28 Piccolinos and Restaurant Bar & Grills, today reported trading "marginally ahead of expectations" in its annual results.

Pre-tax profit for the 14 months to the end of December 2007 was £2.6m, on revenues of £50.9m, compared to a loss of £3.5m on turnover of £13.6m in 2006.

Revenues for the first 12 weeks of 2008 are up 24% on the same period last year, Steven Walker, chief executive of the AIM-listed group, said. Walker told the Stock Exchange: "These results demonstrate another period of strong growth and significant progress for the group, with trading marginally ahead of expectations across our restaurant portfolio and rationalisation of the former Bank and Zinc estate now complete and delivering a further improved performance.

"Despite the current challenging consumer environment, the ongoing appeal of both the Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill remains robust, as do the underlying fundamentals of the eating out market. Our future pipeline of new sites is strong and we are confident that the acceleration of our opening programme this year, together with a tight focus on cost control, should underpin another successful year for the group."

The result period is the first full set of results since IRC was acquired by Bank Restaurant Group in 2006 and reflects the change in year-end from October to December.

A busy year for the evolving portfolio saw six new restaurants open including Piccolinos in West Didsbury and Restaurant Bar & Grill in Liverpool. Seven restaurants are set to open in 2008; Birmingham and York are on site with further venues subject to talks.

A loss-making Birmingham Zinc was closed with a one-off charge of £800,000 and Bank Aldwych was sold for redevelopment for £3.5m, producing a £1.3m profit.

The group announced that non-executive director, Conran Group's Des Gunewardena, would be leaving with immediate effect having assisted with the transfer from Bank to IRC.

Shares in IRC were up 3p at 88.5p in early trading, valuing the company at £30.32m.

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