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Conglomerate May Sell Hard Rock Cafe

Rank Group says divestiture of the chain would allow it to focus on gambling in Britain.

July 05, 2006|From the Associated Press

Leisure and gaming conglomerate Rank Group said Tuesday that it might sell its iconic Hard Rock Cafe chain to concentrate on gambling in Britain.

Shares in Rank, which last year sold its DVD business and split off its film production unit, rose 2.5% on the London Stock Exchange after it announced a review of the Hard Rock chain's "potential strategic options."

The sale of the Hard Rock music memorabilia restaurants would leave Rank with just its gaming operations -- Mecca Bingo and Grosvenor Casino -- in Britain ahead of an anticipated relaxation in gambling laws there.

Revenue at the division grew 8% at company-operated restaurants worldwide with total sales up 6% in the 26 weeks ended June 25.

The first Hard Rock Cafe opened in London's Piccadilly in 1971, and there are now 120 outlets in more than 40 countries. Rank owns about 70 of the restaurants while the remainder are operated under franchises.

Rank has been diversifying away from the restaurant business and also lends its brands to restaurants, hotels and casinos.

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