Rank Group is looking to expand its Hard Rock restaurant and gaming business throughout the UK and Europe and use the brand to stimulate growth in other areas.

Chief executive Mike Smith said Rank was radically restructured in 2000 based increasingly on gaming and the Hard Rock brand. Smith says the Hard Rock cafe opened in Manchester last November, which will be joined by an adjacent Hard Rock casino this year, as a model that will be used to open up Hard Rocks in other major provincial centres throughout the UK.

He said the group was looking for a site in London to build a Hard Rock hotel and sees scope for more openings in Europe, where the business is "doing very well".

"We think Hard Rock branded casinos should appeal to a younger audience," added Smith.

He said there was scope for the group to make further gaming acquisitions, but would not comment on speculation linking Rank with the Coral Eurobet group.

The group would consider the sale of some minor businesses, but major disposals were unlikely, he added. Rank has recently withdrawn its Deluxe film services arm from the market.

The restructured group reported a pretax profit before exceptionals for the year to December 31 of £186m, down from £227.7m the previous year, but ahead of City predictions in the range of £171m - £214m. The group recorded a net cash flow before acquisitions and disposals of £57.9m - a figure that was positive "for the first time in many years".