The franchise partner of Carluccio’s in the Middle East, the Landmark Group, is thought to have built a 4% stake in the Aim-listed UK restaurant operator. The retail conglomerate, which is based in Bahrain, has acquired 2.5m shares in the group – a holding of 4.32% - through subsidiary Landmark Investments. Its intentions remain unclear. Landmark has in the past attempted to buy other businesses, such as New Look, the UK fashion retailer. The group, which was founded in 1973, operates over 900 stores. It has more recently diversified into leisure and hotels. It currently operates one Carluccio’s store through a franchise agreement, with plans to open two more in the Gulf region in 2010. Carluccio’s, which is led by Simon Kossoff, recently opened its 45th store, in Exeter. The company makes underlying profits of £7.6m and is currently valued at £47m. The business was the subject of a takeover approach from Hutton Collins earlier this year.