Shares in PizzaExpress came back from the year-low they hit in the middle of last week as two of the company's directors made a leap of faith to the tune of 11,000 shares.

However, the company's stock was still another 27.5p down at the end of the week, at 687.5p, after dropping 12% in a fortnight.

At one point last week the shares fell to a year low of 651.82p, far off the year's high point, a share price of 973p last June.

The troubles for PizzaExpress began two weeks ago when the share price fell 70p to 710p after rumours that the restaurant chain's management had said the group would not match its full-year earnings expectations.

City sources said the group's chief financial officer said in private briefings with at least one analyst that the group will not match full-year expectations because of continued deterioration in the Central London market. Central London accounts for around 60% of PizzaExpress's profits.

One City broker, Numis Securities moved PizzaExpress to "sell" from "add", cutting its price target to 600p from 875p and its 2002 pre-tax profit forecasts to £42m from £45m in 2002, and to £48m from £55m in 2003.

The company's house broker, Credit Suisse First Boston, then also downgraded its expectations for profits at the restaurant chain, telling investors: "In view of the fact that we are just 10 weeks away from the year-end, a pattern of difficult trading in central London leads us to believe that the company has run out of time to meet consensus expectations." While central London accounts for just 10% of restaurants, historically it has accounted for 20% of profits, CSFB said. The broker downgraded its stance to "hold" from "buy".

Another City broker, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, also downgraded forecasts for pre-tax profit for 2002 to £42.1m from £45.3m, and to £49.3m from £52.9m for 2003.

Tuesday last week saw the company's finance director, Paul Campbell, buy 3,000 ordinary shares of 10p each at 660p a share, adding to his stake of 4,200 shares. On Wednesday the chairman, Nigel Colne bought 8,000 ordinary shares of 10p each at a price of 665p per share, his first purchase of the company's stock. The shares immediately rose 12.5p.