THE owner of Pizza Express has announced plans to pump another £80million into the restaurant chain in an effort to tackle £1.1billion in debt.

Chinese group Hony Capital will use the cash injection to buy back debt owed to bondholders in 2022 and bolster Pizza Express's balance sheet.

It comes as Pizza Express remains in crunch talks over its deby, but the group said it has "no plans" to close restaurants in the UK and Ireland.

The chain has two branches in Bournemouth town centre and one in Poole High Street, as well as at Poole’s Tower Park, Westbourne, Christchurch and Lymington.

The group has to pay the first instalment of its debt repayments, worth £465m in secured bonds, by August 2021.

Its next repayment for £200m in unsecured notes is due to be repaid by the following year.

The chain also owes another £467m in loans from Hony, though these do not have to be repaid.

Hony has also been hit by its investment in troubled office provider WeWork, which has been embroiled in funding issues.

Pizza Express insisted its 482 UK and Ireland sites were not under threat of closure, despite falling UK sales.

In its update on debt refinancing plans, recent trading figures showed UK and Ireland sales falling by 1.1 per cent over the three months to September 29.

The chain said trading conditions in the casual dining sector were tough amid Brexit uncertainty and "fragile" consumer confidence.

It also revealed that group underlying earnings slumped 8.7 per cent to £19.6m in the third quarter.

Despite the trading pressures, Pizza Express said: "Approximately 95 per cent of our UK & Ireland restaurants are profitable and there are no plans for closures outside the normal course of business."

It recently hired advisers at corporate finance firm Houlihan Lokey to help with the debt talks with creditors.

Speculation began swirling around Pizza Express in the summer as news of the debt talks surfaced.

It had been touted as the next on the list of high street dining casualties, after Jamie's Italian collapses and peers Prezzo and Carluccio's all shuttered sites last year.

Sources close to Pizza Express have been quick to deny it is close to collapse or considering a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

However, the firm said in its latest update that it continues to assess its "future funding options", in terms of investment and working capital.

The group is meanwhile investing in a drive to revamp its UK and Ireland business, including restaurant refurbishments – which cost it £500,000 for five sites in the third quarter alone.