Fintrax cashes in on refund business
IT WAS CALLED Project Connacht and Fintrax Group Holdings’ €170 million sale to private equity group Exponent will probably turn out to be the deal of the year in corporate Ireland.
Based in Galway, Fintrax has largely operated under the media radar here since it was founded in the mid-1980s, but its Premier Tax Back brand at airports will be familiar to many travellers.
The Irish company has established itself as the second biggest player globally in processing VAT refunds for tourists on behalf of retailers and governments.
This market is growing substantially each year as the growing ranks of wealthy Chinese tourists flex their spending power on luxury goods.
Fintrax also has a significant currency conversion arm and has built relationships with the major card processors and hotel chains.
It is understood that 10 final bids were tabled with Raglan Capital for the business, which is majority owned by entrepreneur Gerry Barry and his family. American Express is believed to have been in the final mix.
Exponent won the day and is thought to have ambitious plans to grow the business, which is good news for the company’s staff in Galway, Paris and the UK.
The information memorandum circulated to interested buyers forecast that net income would rise from €37.4 million in 2011 to €46.2 million by the end of next year.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) is predicted to rise from more than €13 million to €19.8 million over the same period.
These are impressive figures even if IM documents tend to gild the lily somewhat.
While key senior executives will remain with the business, Barry has cut his ties with Fintrax. The entrepreneur and his family owned 70 per cent of the business and he has received a cheque for €119 million, so he won’t be short of options in the years ahead.
The deal is also a sign that, in spite of our tarnished reputation in global financial markets, heavyweight investors are still prepared to spend significant sums of money here to do business.