O’Brien sells Topaz for more than double what he paid

Canadian retailer buys fuel chain for an estimated €450m

Denis O’Brien agreed to pay a reported €150 million for Topaz’s combined IBRC debts of about €305 million in 2013. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Denis O’Brien agreed to pay a reported €150 million for Topaz’s combined IBRC debts of about €305 million in 2013. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Denis O’Brien has sold his Topaz network of more than 460 filling stations to listed Canadian retailer Alimentation Couche-Tard for a figure reputed to be about €450 million.

The price is well over double what he invested in the business to gain control of it from the special liquidators of the state-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) at the end of 2013.

At that stage, he agreed to pay a reported €150 million for the group’s combined IBRC debts of about €305 million, an effective writedown of €155 million.

Alimentation Couche- Tard, which operates more than 15,000 outlets worldwide, says it expects to gain control of Topaz next February or March, once the deal is assessed by European competition regulators.

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The deal also includes the Esso network, for which Topaz closed a €75 million acquisition on Tuesday.

The enlarged group owns or supplies 460 Topaz and Esso fuel stations and retail outlets in Ireland, with more than 2,000 staff and close to 35 per cent of the consumer market.

Its directors include former taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Couche-Tard says it will change the name of Topaz’s forecourt retail stores, many of which were only recently rebranded as Re.Store, to its own Circle K retail brand. It said it has not yet decided what brand to put on the fuel forecourts.

The deal also includes Topaz’s 50 per cent share of an aviation fuels business, as well as another business controlled by Mr O’Brien, Property Resource Investment Fund, which owns at least 90 Topaz stores.

Mr O’Brien owns about 90 per cent of the Topaz group. Emmet O’Neill, his nephew and the chief executive of the business, owns about 10 per cent after completing a deal with his uncle in May.

Price paid

The deal is likely to result in a handsome payout for Mr O’Brien, although his net return can only be estimated, as Topaz won’t reveal its total debts and these would have to be knocked off the total sale price to calculate his profit.