Wolseley UK to buy back Heat Merchants and Tubs & Tiles in Republic

UK group had sold the businesses at the height of the property crash

Building materials supplier Wolseley UK has moved to re-enter the Republic with a deal to repurchase the Heat Merchants and Tubs & Tiles businesses it sold a dozen years ago at the height of the property downturn.

The company has also agreed to buy Hevac, a heating and plumbing specialist, as part of the transaction, for an undisclosed price. The seller of the businesses is Harleston Ltd, a Dublin-based company owned by the three adult children of the late businessman John Paul English.

The three businesses combined have annual revenue of about €150 million and employ more than 400 people in 47 locations in the Republic, the companies said in a joint statement. All jobs will be retained, and it is also planned that the individual brands will be retained, they added.

The planned transaction, which remains subject to clearance from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, also includes a number of other brands including Tube Company of Ireland, Polytherm Heating Systems Limited, Origen Energy and Aluminox.


"This is a very exciting announcement for Wolseley as it acquires Heat Merchants, Tubs & Tiles and Hevac, all well-known brands in Ireland providing a local and personal service, which Wolseley will further build on," said Simon Oakland, chief executive of Wolseley UK. "Wolseley itself is undergoing an ambitious growth strategy through business acquisition and this latest announcement is a key part of this."

Wolseley UK is the former plumbing, heating and utility products of London-listed Ferguson plc, which was known as Wolseley plc until 2017. Ferguson sold Wolseley UK last year to focus on its North American operations.

Corporate journey

Meanwhile, the corporate journey of Heat Merchants, Tubs & Tiles and timber distributor Brooks, which Wolseley sold for just €26.4 million in 2010 after investing hundreds of millions of euro building an Irish business over the previous decade, has also been complicated.

The subsequent owner of the three Irish businesses, BHT Group, succumbed to examinership, followed by liquidation, in early 2012, before plumbing merchant Heat Merchants and bathroom and tile specialist Tubs & Tiles were acquired by Harleston, which already owned Hevac.

Meanwhile, Brooks ended up being bought the same year by Welsh timber importer Premier Forest Products, with the acquirer entering another deal the following year to buy Dublin Plywood and Veneer. Premier Forest Products sold the entire Irish operation last year to Co Down-headquartered Murdock Builders Merchants.

Shane Colleran, director of Heat Merchants, said the latest transaction "will allow us to build on the momentum we have generated over recent years and enable us to invest in the significant market opportunities in Ireland".

Garrett White, director of Hevac added: "The new ownership will allow us to contribute the appropriate resources and skills to further invest in Hevac and leverage Wolseley's broader operational capabilities."

Heat Merchants and Hevac were advised on the transaction by CapNua Corporate Finance and Eversheds.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times