Waste collector Greyhound is in pole position to acquire the business that its rivals Panda and Greenstar must sell to allow their proposed merger to go ahead.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has approved Panda's bid for Greenstar, once the enlarged group, Pandagreen, sells its domestic waste collection businesses in Dublin's Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council areas.
A commission statement said that Pandagreen has committed to selling these operations to one of the industry’s other big players, the Buckley family-owned Greyhound, which has agreed in principle to buy them.
“ If the sale to Greyhound does not proceed, the commitments require that the two identified businesses be sold to an alternative purchaser or purchasers to be approved by the CCPC,” the statement said.
Panda agreed to buy Greenstar earlier this year from US company, Cerberus, after several months of on-off talks. They notified the deal to the competition watchdog, which began an investigation in February.
Commission chairwoman Isolde Goggin confirmed that the investigation found that the merger would have reduced competition in household waste collection in the two Dublin boroughs had it gone ahead as proposed.
“Pandagreen’s commitment to divest Greenstar’s domestic waste collection businesses in Fingal and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown means that consumers in those areas will continue to have the same amount of choice as they did prior to the merger,” she said.
Household bin charges became a political flashpoint this summer when the Government introduced a new pay-by-weight system for domestic customers that in some prompted collectors to hike their prices.
The row prompted calls from consumer groups and politicians for an investigation of the waste industry’s charges and accusations that companies were using the introduction of pay-by-weight as a cover to boost their prices.
However, the industry itself argued that its own costs were rising on the back of a squeeze on landfill space and increased recycling charges.
The CCPC’s decision will maintain competition at it current level, but will not increase it, as no new player is entering the industry.
The deal it is approving is bringing together two of the sector’s biggets players. Based in Ballyogan Dublin, Greenstar recycles and processes waste, collects rubbish from 80,000 homes and 15,000 busineses in the capital and provides a number of other related services.
Its most recent accounts show that it had revenues of €99 million in the 12 months ended March 31st, 2015, but lost €7 million. It employs 850 people.
Meath-based Panda is the brainchild of businessman Eamon Waters, who is still its biggest shareholder. It has about 150,000 household customers and 15,000 businesses. Revenues are said to be about €80 million a year and it employs 700 people.
Greyhound is controlled through a series of unlimited companies that are not obliged to publish accounts. Founded more than 40 years ago by Bernard and Maura Buckley, Greyhound is based in Clondalkin, Dublin, where it employs 400 people.
It collects waste from 250,000 customers in the Dublin City Council and South Dublin Council areas.