Caffe Nero beats bears to float

Caffe Nero saw a successful Stock Exchange float on Friday, its shares closing 3.5p above the starting price of 50p, despite one of the chilliest climates for new issues for a long time.

The chain's chairman and chief executive, Gerry Ford said he believed it was the only launch onto the main London stock market in the entire three weeks from March 12 to March 30.

Caffe Nero is using all the £9m it raised in its stock market flotation, which values the company at £33.7m, to roll out 50 or so more Italian-style coffee bars around the country in the next 12 to 14 months.

Ford, said Caffe Nero was already in 21 cities with its 58 existing outlets and it would now be "filling in" û "We have four in Manchester, but only one in Leeds, one in Birmingham and none in Edinburgh, for example," he said.

Ford is still sore over a story in one national newspaper that Caffe Nero had "pulled" a supposed planned float last November, allegedly over pricing issues. He said: "We had looked at floating in November, but we hadn't even got as far as visiting institutions. Our brokers said, 'this is a bad time, you don't need the money, we'll tell you when the time gets a little bit better,' and the next thing I know is that we are being accused of pulling the float."

Ford said comments that the coffee bar market was becoming saturated were being made by London-based writers looking no further than what they could see from their own front doors, rather than at the facts.