Italian Autogrill has opened two new outlets as it continues its expansion drive, but its first half loss and uncertainty over the dollar is causing a decline in the value of its shares.

The multinational, controlled by the clothing and sportswear Benetton family, inaugurated its first Spizzico fast pizza unit in Switzerland, at Lausanne, and its first food-serving drugstore at Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino. The Drugstore emulates Autogrill's similar operations at roadside outlets in the US.

Financial analysts expressed concern today (Friday) however, over the slumping value of its shares -from €13 to €11 - and a flurry of trading after Goldman Sachs dropped the target price from €13.9 to €12.5.

Analysts attributed the decline in sales to the currently difficult conditions of the sector as well as Autogrill's net loss of €16.9m in H1 2001 (H1 loss in 2000 was €17.7m). However, the company's revenues are on the increase - up 11.9% at €1,488m in H1 2001. Ebitda was up 6.5% at €151.4m. In H1 2000, Autogrill invested €78.8m.

The company's overall financial situation is not in any danger, according to analysts, but some uncertainty surrounds its US HMSHost because of the occasional weakness of the US dollar, although its revenue in the first half stood at €773.4m, compared to €730.2m the year before.

Goldman Sachs also expressed concern over Passaggio, the Swiss restaurant chain acquired by Autogrill last December for €167m, and reduced its rating on Autogrill from market perform to market outperform.

Autogrill leads in serving food at roadsides, train stations, airports and commercial centres internationally.

By Hilmi Toros, just-food.com correspondent