Fintrax founder sells up for €170m to private equity firm
Gerry Barry agrees 'biggest deal in Gaeltacht history' as London-based Exponent wins a global bidding war
Galway businessman Gerry Barry has agreed a €170m deal to sell Fintrax, the global VAT-back company he first set up almost three decades ago, to a UK-based private equity firm.
Exponent Private Equity saw off rival offers from the US, Asia and Europe in an intense auction to buy the company.
With Fintrax headquartered in Ballinahown, Co Galway, it's reckoned to be the biggest business deal in Gaeltacht history.
The Connemara company attracted 10 fully-funded offers. It means bidders with between €1.5bn and €2bn were chasing the deal.
"Irish assets with customers abroad are in demand," said Cathal Friel of Raglan Capital, who advised on the sale.
He said international investors are not being put off Ireland by euro fears, but do see Ireland as an increasingly competitive place to have a major cost base, such as the Fintrax global headquarters.
The final price of €170m is double Fintrax current turnover of €85m and more than 12 times its earnings of €14m.
Fintrax, however, is profitable. Investors think its intellectual capital, including patents and know how, can be scaled up for further global expansion.
The value of bids made by investors from outside the euro area were also boosted by the falls in the value of the currency during the six-month auction process.
The company's main business is a VAT-back services for tourists buying goods abroad, a concept Gerry Barry came up with and first launched at Shannon Airport in 1985, and "dynamic currency conversion" technology that allows credit card users to pay for goods in their own currency while travelling abroad.
Despite operating out of remote locations, companies like Fintrax and Kerry's Fexco prove that Ireland is now globally recognised as a centre for credit card technology.
The Fintrax headquarters in the Connemara Gaeltacht is to be retained as global head office by the new owners, the Irish Independent has learned, and there are plans to further expand operations at the site.
The sale values the Barry family's 70pc share of Fintrax at €119m.
The remaining 30pc was owned by managers in Ireland and abroad.
The business had little or no debt, and is the number two operator in its field globally. Fintrax founder Gerry Barry will leave the company following the sale, but the remaining management team is to remain in place.
Managers are understood to be ploughing part of their stake back into the business and will remain shareholders alongside Exponent.
London-based Exponent owns a diverse mix of companies and brands, ranging from luxury handbag maker Radley and meat substitute Quorn to the Times Literary Supplement.
Fintrax employs more than 400 people worldwide.