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Famous Brands plans UK drive to diversify from rand

[JOHANNESBOURG] Famous Brands Ltd is planning further UK expansion as the South African owner of fast-food chains including Debonairs Pizza and Steers seeks faster growth in the country and increased revenue from currencies other than the rand.

"I have spent a lot of time going back and forth looking for a suitable asset so we can get some momentum in the UK," Strategic Adviser and former Chief Executive Officer Kevin Hedderwick said in phone interview on Monday. The Johannesburg- based restaurant owner has just completed its best-ever year in the UK yet the business is still "pedestrian" by company standards, he said.

Revenue in the UK gained 13 per cent to US$5 million in the year to end February, yet fell by 2 per cent in pounds, Famous Brands said in an earlier statement. Total sales were up 31 per cent while operating profit gained 18 percent. The company plans to add five more Wimpy outlets in the country this year and one Steers restaurant as part of a wider store-opening plan across international and domestic markets.

South African retailers have been expanding in the UK and elsewhere in part to diversify away from the rand, which has weakened almost 30 per cent against the US dollar in the past 12 months.