La Tasca Group this morning reported a 22.1% increase in first-half Ebitda and announced the launch of a third brand. For the six months to 30 October the group reported Ebitda of £4.6m against £3.7m in the same period last year. Turnover was up 18.5% to £27m, with profit before tax (before goodwill amortisation) up 92% to £2.7m. The company's third brand, called Sam & Maxie's, will be a bar, grill and smoke house concept, aimed at the family market. The first site is expected to be open by April 2006, with the group focussing on leisure parks. James Horler, the company's chief executive, said: “I firmly believe that the best way to generate strong shareholder value is through developing and building new businesses rather than through acquisitions at a time when values may appear somewhat overpriced.” Horler added that Mary McLaughlin, the group's managing director, would oversee the expansion of the La Vina and La Tasca brands in the UK, whereas he would operate the US business directly, oversee the selection of locations for all new restaurants and develop Sam & Maxie's. In the US, La Tasca said that its two restaurants continued to perform well, particularly the one in Washington DC which is now in the top five grossing restaurants within the company. The site has benefited from the area becoming much busier as a direct result of the improvement in attendances at the nearby Convention Centre and MCI Events Arena. The group is currently building a new restaurant in Baltimore at the Harbour Place destination, which is expected to open during February 2006. A restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia is expected to open in June. The company has increased its rate of expansion to 14 restaurants per year from 11 with 64 sites expected to be open by the end of the year. Six new restaurants opened during the first half, comprising five La Tascas (London City and Victoria; Brentwood; Swansea; and Oxford) and one under its new La Viña brand, in Leeds. The company, which listed on AIM in February, announced a maiden interim dividend of 0.37p. Horler added: “Trading in the initial weeks of the second half has begun well and we remain confident of achieving a positive outcome for the year.”