Wednesday 23 August 2017

Doyle shipping group in €47m ICG shares sale

John Mulligan and Emmet Oliver

The Cork-based Doyle shipping group -- a key player in what was a two-year takeover saga at ferry group Irish Continental -- has sold its 12pc stake in the company via an institutional placing, raising proceeds of about €47m.

The three million Irish Continental (ICG) shares sold by the Doyle Group are thought to have been placed with between 10 and 15 institutions at a price of around €15.75 per share.

The Doyle Group, which is headed by cousins Frank and Conor Doyle, had bought the shares as a concert party of investment group One51, which is headed by businessman Philip Lynch. Both sides' shares have been held via a vehicle called Moonduster.

While the Doyle Group is likely to have pocketed about €9m in dividends from ICG by this year, it's still certain to have realised a significant loss on the stake. One51 holds a 12pc stake in the ferry group.

The Doyle group made its initial share purchase in ICG, which trades as Irish Ferries, in early 2007. At the time, the ferry group's management, led by chief executive Eamon Rothwell, was trying to push through a €471m buyout of ICG. Mr Rothwell owns 16pc of ICG. That attempt to take the company private prompted a bidding war between shareholders.

Failed property developer Liam Carroll also amassed a 29pc stake in ICG, using €175m in debt from Allied Irish Banks.

Complicated

That complicated any bid attempts by other shareholders. Getting hold of a 33-acre ICG landbank at Dublin Port was seen to be a crucial aspect of any takeover deal.

AIB later took control of Mr Carroll's stake and placed it with institutional shareholders in 2009, realising a loss of about €88m on its loans.

Moonduster would eventually pay a total of €134m to acquire just over 24pc of ICG, and later wrote off €44m of that investment.

After Mr Rothwell and other management made their initial offer to buy ICG in 2007, Moonduster made a higher offer, valuing the company at €561m. Mr Rothwell's bid failed and Moonduster's lapsed.

The two sides joined forces in late 2008 to table a fresh offer. In 2009, they were given two deadlines by the Takeover Panel to table a bid for ICG, but they failed to lodge a bid in time. They were then barred for making a fresh offer for 12 months.

A spokesman for ICG declined to comment on the sale of the Doyles' stake in the group, while Conor Doyle was uncontactable yesterday.

It's been rumoured that the relationship between the Doyles and Mr Lynch had soured in recent times, but other sources have said they remain on reasonable terms.

The Doyle Group's main operating subsidiary is the Burke Shipping Group, which has offices in ports including Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Belfast, as well as Shanghai.

Shares in ICG closed up just under 1pc at €16.39 yesterday.

Irish Independent

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