Wagamama owner wins biggest investor's backing ahead of AGM

·2-min read

The biggest shareholder in the owner of Wagamama has delivered a sizeable boost to its board by pledging its support ahead of a crucial annual meeting this month.

Sky News can reveal Columbia Threadneedle Investments, which owns 19% of The Restaurant Group (TRG), has decided to vote in support of company resolutions at its AGM on 23 May.

The decision to back chief executive Andy Hornby's £792,000 pay package for last year comes after activist investor Oasis Management Company - which holds 12% of TRG - urged fellow shareholders to oppose it.

Oasis has been embroiled in an increasingly bitter fight with TRG's chairman, Ken Hanna, and his boardroom colleagues over its management and strategy.

Mr Hanna has rejected Oasis's demands for a board seat and expressed continued confidence in Mr Hornby.

In a statement issued to Sky News, Columbia Threadneedle said:

"As a long-term shareholder in The Restaurant Group, we remain supportive of TRG's board and management team, who have successfully navigated the exceptionally tough industry backdrop.

"The board continues to receive our support as they assess the best options to deliver long-term shareholder value."

In addition to Wagamama, TRG owns a concessions business at transport hubs, a pubs division and the Chiquito and Frankie & Benny's casual dining chains.

Last week, it issued a positive trading update and was boosted this week by a research note from analysts at Shore Capital who cited its "robust performance".

Shares in TRG closed on Wednesday 7% higher at 51.2p, giving the company a market value of £366m.

It recently announced plans to close 35 underperforming sites, while others in the sector, such as Prezzo, are turning to insolvency mechanisms to enforce site closures.

A spokesperson for TRG said: "As you will have seen from last week's trading update, the market's reaction and upgrades from the analysts, we will continue to let our numbers do the talking."

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Last week, Mr Hornby said the company had "enjoyed a really positive first four months of the year".

"Wagamama and our Brunning & Price Pubs continue to trade very strongly and it is especially pleasing to see the consistent growth in 'dine in' sales with customers clearly enjoying eating out despite the economic backdrop.

"Our Concessions business is also performing particularly strongly as air travel continues to recover."

Glass Lewis, the proxy adviser, has recommended that TRG shareholders vote with Oasis, while the Investment Association's voting advisory service has backed Mr Hanna over Mr Hornby's pay.