A consortium led by the original founders of Cork outsourcing company Abtran have bought back the majority stake in the business that was owned by Carlyle Cardinal Ireland (CCI), a private equity fund.
Abtran, which employs more than 1,600 staff and whose contracts include the Irish Water call centre and processing the property tax for Revenue, is now wholly owned by the private investor group, which includes brothers and company co-founders and directors, Pat Fitzgerald and Michael Fitzgerald.
State-backed CCI, a €292 million fund that is a joint venture between The Carlyle Group and Cardinal Capital, bought a majority stake from the original investors in 2015 for what was reported at the time to be "over €40 million".
Abtran would not comment last night on the price at which that stake has been repurchased, but it said “the transaction value is very significant”.
The consortium that has bought back control of Abtran has set up a company, Vurdon, to close the transaction. Its records show it was set up in May although the deal only closed in recent weeks.
Documents associated with the establishment of Vurdon say all of its shares are owned by Pat Fitzgerald, but it is understood that the consortium is also backed by a number of other private investors. Abtran also suggested that senior members of its management team have invested.
Vurdon is executing the buyout by acquiring Aurora Acquisitions, the apex company that CCI used for the prior deal to take control of Abtran's holding company. Aurora was originally backed in 2015 with funding from Bank of Ireland (BoI).
Documents filed this week by Abtran suggest that the BoI facility has effectively been rolled over for the latest buyout, with the addition of a further €14 million in term loans. The documents suggest the BoI facility has also been extended to provide financial guarantees for a €373 million contract that an Abtran-linked company has won to operate the M50 toll bridge in Dublin.
Abtran said last night that “the Fitzgerald-led group of investors includes a highly experienced senior leadership team, all of whom will continue to drive the business forward”.
It said the new owners will invest “growth capital” in the business. This will be spent on technological innovations such as artificial intelligence and data analytics.
“This is an exceptionally positive development where, as original founders of the business, we are making a major equity investment in the company to continue the successful growth of Abtran into the future,” said Michael Fitzgerald, the executive chairman.
CCI confirmed the transaction, although it, too, declined to disclose the price. CCI highlighted that Abtran had expanded under its ownership with a new regional operations centre in Sligo in 2018.