Supermarket chain Superquinn has been sold for a knock-down price of over €100m, a fraction of the €400m paid for it during the boom, sources have confirmed to Independent.ie.
The chain was sold to wholesale group Musgrave within 24 hours of it going into receivership.
“The figure of €100m, or slightly higher, is likely given current market conditions in both the property and retail sectors,” a source close to Superquinn said.
Superquinn was sold to a consortium in 2005 by businessman Feargal Quinn for an estimated €400m.
Musgrave is buying up a distribution centre in Blanchardstown, Dublin and 11 properties around the capital as part of the deal.
Another source said the price would have been much lower if the properties had not been included in the deal.
However, a spokeman for Musgrave would not comment on a price and described figures in the market as speculation.
The deal will need the rubber stamp of the Competition Authority and if it goes ahead could secure the jobs of 2,800 workers who will transfer to the new company under their existing terms of employment.
The receiver, KPMG, has said that the business will trade as normal pending the completion of the sale.
Musgrave owns the Centra, Supervalu and Mace supermarket chains and accounts for just under 24pc of the Irish supermarket share.
Superquinn has 6.4pc share but if the takeover is approved, the Cork-based wholesaler would overtake Tesco as the biggest retailer in the country.
Musgrave is taking over the brand and 24 stores as part of the deal.
It is understood that the €400m in debts racked up by the firm were largely associated with property investments although the retail sector has also been hit by the recession.
The company behind Surperquinn, Select Retail Holdings, is made up of a number of shareholders including builder Bernard McNamara who said last year he is “broke”.
Other shareholders include other developers like Jerry O’Reilly and Terry Sweeney.
While the deal has been cautiously welcomed by the Mandate trade union, the Irish Farmers Association has warned that the consolidation of the supermarket sector could adversely affect producers and consumers.
IFA President John Brien expressed concern that producers would be squeezed for lower prices as a result.
"With the three major players [Musgrave, Tesco and Dunnes] having more and more power, they will naturally put more pressure on primary producers. We need a code of conduct for retailers otherwise these three dominant players will control the market to the point that producers will be put under pressure and the consumer will continue to be ripped off,” he told RTE radio.
Commenting on the sale, Musgarve chief executive Chris Martin said: “Having come to this agreement with the joint receivers, we are excited by this opportunity.
“Purchasing Superquinn, when approved, supports our growth agenda and will sustain our competitiveness. We are looking forward to working with the Superquinn team to develop the future of the business.”