Thursday 22 March 2018

Avoca sale a step closer as Pratt begins exclusive negotiations

Sarah Morrissey and Karen Fitzpatrick modelling some of the Avoca clothing collections. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Sarah Morrissey and Karen Fitzpatrick modelling some of the Avoca clothing collections. Photo: Kieran Harnett

Mary McDonnell

A sale of the Avoca retail and restaurant chain has moved a step closer, with the company now in exclusive negotiations to sell the business, the Irish Independent has learned.

The business has 11 outlets in Ireland, including one on Belfast, and had been in discussions with a number of potential buyers.

"I can confirm that we are in an exclusive period of negotiation with a potential purchaser but would not like to comment further," Avoca chief executive Simon Pratt told the Irish Independent.

Mr Pratt declined to name the prospective buyer. US catering giant Aramark has previously been tipped to buy the business.

Aramark did not respond to a request for comment.

It was previously reported that a delegation from the multinational, including executives from the US and senior members of the local Aramark management team, received a tour of Avoca's premises in May.

Mr Pratt said in January that he was expecting operating profits at the company to surge by 50pc to over €3.3m in the current financial year.

The company's accounts for last year show that Avoca Handweavers and its subsidiaries saw average staff numbers increase to 687 from 665, despite pre-tax profits falling by 25pc to €1.54m.

The group sustained the drop in spite of revenues rising by 4pc to €57.85m. Mr Pratt attributed the drop in profit last year to €1.5m in investment costs.

The accounts show the company is sitting on tangible fixed assets of over €31m.

Interest was initially sparked in Avoca when Simon Pratt gave an interview late last year in which he said that the business will not be passed on to the newest generation of the family.

Speaking at the time he said: "It would be almost inevitable that there would be conflict, and the idea that my kids could end up not speaking to my sister's kids is just appalling."

The company was founded by Mr Pratt's father, Donald, when he decided to buy a derelict weaving mill in Avoca village, Co Wicklow, in the 1970s.

The company's initial focus was on making design products but in recent years its focus has shifted towards food.

The business is owned by Donald Pratt, his wife and their four children.

Simon Pratt's sister Amanda, recently left Avoca Handweavers amicably to advise on a revamp of Bewley's Grafton Street outlet, but kept her stake in the family-run business.

Ms Pratt said she wanted to "do something different". She was the company's head designer.

Irish Independent

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