Business Irish

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Abtran shareholders in talks to buy back CCI majority stake

Irish private equity close to sale of interest back to original family owners

Established in 1997, Abtran specialises in providing services across government, transport, utilities and financial services. Stock photo
Established in 1997, Abtran specialises in providing services across government, transport, utilities and financial services. Stock photo
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Private equity fund Carlyle Cardinal Ireland (CCI) is in talks to sell a majority stake in Abtran, a Cork-based outsourcing company, back to a number of the original owners.

The Irish private equity fund bought the stake in November 2015 in what was one of its largest investments.

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At the time, it was reported that CCI was paying more than €40m for the majority stake.

When CCI made the investment, the unlimited company was owned by two offshore companies. However, prior to the company going unlimited, the business was owned by Gerard Fitzgerald, Michael Fitzgerald and Patrick Fitzgerald, and Pat Ryan.

It is understood that negotiations between CCI and members of the Fitzgerald family are at an advanced stage.

When the 2015 sale was completed, Abtran's management team, including co-founders Michael Fitzgerald and Pat Ryan, continued in their roles and invested further as shareholders in the business.

There have been a number of management changes since then. Michael Fitzgerald is now executive chairman, taking over from Mike Maloney in that role in recent months.

CCI had no comment when contacted by the Sunday Independent.

Established in 1997, Abtran specialises in providing services across government, transport, utilities and financial services.

Abtran became well-known to the public for its role with Irish Water and its handling of water bills.

It also operates the helpline for the State's Local Property Tax (LPT).

According to recent figures from Revenue, the Cork firm has received fees totalling €16.3m for the operation of the LPT since March.

In June, the company announced that it was continuing its contract with Electric Ireland. The contract has an approximate value of €30m over three years to 2022, with an option to extend for a further four years.

The CCI investment term ends in November and no new fund is planned.

However, Cardinal may set up its own new fund, according to reports.

CCI, which is in part backed by the State, has exited a number of investments over the past two years. Last April, AIB formed a new joint venture with First Data Corporation to buy Irish fintech payments business Payzone for €100m from CCI.

In March 2018, CCI exited its majority stake in cash-in-transit business GSLS.

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