Superquinn taken over by retail consortium for €450 million


Mr Feargal Quinn and his family will retain just a tiny holding in the Superquinn supermarket chain after it is sold to a group of investors for €450 million, write Una McCaffrey and Martin Wall.

The deal is the second-largest retail takeover since Tesco's €800 million buyout of Quinnsworth in 1997.

The Quinn family is expected to hold about 5 per cent of the company when the buyout is completed.

Superquinn's new owners - a consortium of eight businessmen - are expected to work on expanding the group by opening up to 10 new outlets over the coming five years.

The firm's branding and positioning at the top end of the food retailing market are to be retained.

The day-to-day management of the chain will be taken over by Dubliner Mr Simon Burke, the former chairman of London toy retailer Hamleys and the public face of the investment consortium, Select Retail Holdings.

Mr Burke will take on the position of executive chairman, while Mr Quinn will become president.

Mr Quinn said yesterday that he expected to have a "hand-holding" role at the company.

Mr Burke will be the only member of the consortium to take an active part in running Superquinn. The remaining members of the group are property consultants Mr David Courtney and Mr Bernard Doyle, corporate finance expert Mr David Cantrell, tax consultant Mr Kieran Ryan and property developers Mr Bernard McNamara and Mr Gerry O'Reilly.

Neither side of the takeover was prepared yesterday to reveal the financial details of the deal. It is thus unclear how much debt is involved or who will take responsibility for this after the deal is completed. The deal must be approved by the Competition Authority.

Sources close to the consortium said last night that the property developers in the group would seek to acquire sites for the future expansion of the Superquinn group.

Mr Burke said yesterday that the company would develop a new full-size supermarket at Carrickmines in south Dublin on a site secured by the consortium.

It is also negotiating to open a Superquinn Select convenience store on the south side of Dublin's city centre within the next 18 months.

The takeover is believed to have grown out of Superquinn's repeated frustration at being outbid on sites it wanted to acquire for expansion. The group has been battling against fierce competition over the past few years, particularly at the lower end of its market.

Its market share has grown little over the past few years and currently hovers just below 9 per cent. This compares to 25 per cent for Tesco and a combined 5 per cent for discount retailers Aldi and Lidl.

The firm's new owners will also be reviewing Superquinn's existing property portfolio, with a view to releasing cash for the redevelopment of existing properties or the purchase of new sites.

Superquinn owns the sites on which all 20 of its branches are located, apart from one in Dublin's Northside shopping centre and another in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Mr Burke did not rule out the closure of some branches in favour of developing new outlets. He insisted, however, that the firm was not planning to get into the scale of "large, multiple operators" such as Tesco. "We have a much higher-quality focus and that's how we want to develop," he said.

Mr Quinn said the deal was a "great news story" for Superquinn's staff, customers and suppliers. The deal is not expected to result in any reductions in Superquinn's 4,200-strong staff.

Mr Quinn's eldest son, Mr Eamonn Quinn, will remain with the company as deputy chairman while another son, Mr Stephen Quinn, will also remain in an executive role.