Iseq heavyweights take on tech groups for ‘Company of the Year’ award

CRH, eShopWorld, Intercom and Total Produce shortlisted for the award

Eoghan McCabe, chief executive of Intercom: In March, Intercom raised $125 million to bring Intercom’s valuation to $1.275 billion. Photograph: Martin Lacey

Eoghan McCabe, chief executive of Intercom: In March, Intercom raised $125 million to bring Intercom’s valuation to $1.275 billion. Photograph: Martin Lacey

 

CRH

After taking 12 months off to digest and lower its debt burden after a record €8 billion of assets acquired in 2015, CRH was back on the deals path.

Ireland’s largest publicly listed group agreed last August to buy Ash Grove Cement, the US’s fifth-largest cement company, for $3.5 billion (€2.8 billion). Investors were cheering the group’s self-restraint on price even as a rival bidder, Summit Materials, founded by former top CRH executive, Tom Hill, gate-crashed the party. In the end, Summit walked away.

CRH’s chief executive Albert Manifold also bolstered his credentials as a disciplined boss, moving to sell the company’s low-margin US distribution arm, Allied Building Products, for $2.6 billion, having concluded there wasn’t enough scope to scale up the business further and enhancing shareholder returns.

CRH’s shares lost almost 8 per cent last year as investors scaled back their hopes over US president Donald Trump’s infrastructure spending plan. However, Manifold and his team concentrated on delivering, with earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation rising 6 per cent to a record €3.3 billion. Analysts currently expect the group to post a further increase of more than 8 per cent in earnings this year.

eShopWorld

It may not be a household name as yet but most of its clients certainly are. Moreover, if eShopWorld continues to grow at the rate it is currently then chances are everyone will soon know all about the Dublin-based ecommerce company.

eShopWorld has won a host of awards over the past 12 months including being named company of the year at the annual Technology Ireland software industry awards ceremony in November.

Led by founder Tommy Kelly, eShopWorld is expecting to exceed $1 billion (€850 million) in annual turnover by the end of 2019.

The company, which employs 180 people, connects premium brands from Victoria’s Secret to Nike with consumers in more than 200 countries. Established in 2010, the group make it easier for retailers to sell across borders, where they have to deal with varying currency, tax and localisation issues.

The fast-growing group, which currently employs 180 people but is looking to take on an additional 250 employees, forecast 2017 revenues would grow by 50 per cent to €300 million.

It was recently valued at the same price in a transaction that saw Asendia, a joint venture from the French and Swiss postal service companies, increase its stake in the company by 10 per cent to 50 per cent.

eShopWorld chief executive Tommy Kelly: expecting to exceed $1 billion (€850 million) in annual turnover by the end of 2019. Photograph: Jason Clarke
eShopWorld chief executive Tommy Kelly: expecting to exceed $1 billion (€850 million) in annual turnover by the end of 2019. Photograph: Jason Clarke

Intercom

Few outside of the technology space may easily grasp what exactly Intercom does, but having recently been elevated to Unicorn status, there are undoubtedly more people now paying attention to the company.

Founded by Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, Ciarán Lee and David Barrett in 2011, Intercom allows internet firms to communicate quickly and easily with customers for marketing, sales and support. It operates through a number of channels, including websites and mobile apps.

In March, Intercom raised $125 million to bring Intercom’s valuation to $1.275 billion. This is comfortably above the $1 billion level that confers Unicorn status on start-up companies – and brings to $241 million the total funding raised to date by the business.

Intercom handles about 500 million messages through its service each month. It expects that figure to increase further, particularly with future generations of consumers, who do not have email addresses and instead have grown up with messenger services.

Although it has not provided updated revenue figures, the most recently available data, which is for 2016, put it at abot $50 million. The company has 25,000 paying customers, with the new funding likely to lead to more gains as Intercom invests more in its technology platform.

Total Produce

Having announced a whopping 43 per cent rise in full-year pretax profits just weeks after revealing it had acquired an initial 45 per cent stake in Dole Foods in the US, it would seem fair to say that Total Produce is having a moment.

The food distributor, which spun out of Fyffes in 2007, recently reported that profits jumped to €72.5 million last year as a string of acquisitions began to bear fruit.

The company has been focused on boosting its presence in North America with a number of important buys. These include acquiring a 50 per cent stake in California company The Fresh Connection last November, as well as taking a 65 per cent interest in LA-based Progressive Produce and upping its existing stake in Canadian firm Grandview Ventures.

In February, Total Produce announced it had acquired a 45 per share in Dole, in a €245 million deal.

Total Produce is expected to exercise its right to purchase all the shares in Dole within five years and while the deal is still subject to certain regulatory approvals, it has the potential to be truly transformational for the Irish-listed company.