Gleeson’s refinance deal frees €26m for new buys
SOFT drinks giant The Gleeson Group has agreed a €26m refinancing deal with its banks with a view to spending up to €25m on acquisition "opportunities" that come up in the downturn.
Best known for producing Tipperary Water, the Gleeson Group has a wide-ranging drinks and distribution business that boasts a turnover of close to €250m in its most recently-filed accounts.
Documents just lodged with the Companies' Office show the group's ultimate holding company, M & J Gleeson (Investments), restructured its bank borrowings in February.
According to the documents, Gleeson has secured a new €26m facility from AIB, Barclays and Bank of Scotland (Ireland), which includes the refinancing of a €12m loan originally taken out in 2007.
Gleeson boss Pat Cooney yesterday said the refinancing brought together several different loans. Asked why, Mr Cooney said: “We're positioning ourselves so we can take advantage of whatever opportunities are going to present themselves. With what we've done, we can spend about €25m.”
Gleeson has already bought an Offaly distributor in recent weeks, and Mr Cooney said he was confident that there would be more opportunities over the coming months.
The drinks boss added that Gleeson was now “starting to see growth again” after shedding 7pc of its sales last year, marking the company's first turnover drop in its history.
Demand The fall implies sales of just over €230m in the year ended June 2009, against published filings showing sales of €250m in the year to June 2008.
Recent trading has been buoyed by ‘the big freeze’, which saw the Gleeson plant producing 5 litre bottles of water “24/7” in January, as public demand soared amid shortages of tap water.
Describing last year as “very difficult”, Mr Cooney said the group had to take “significant action” on costs, including a pay freeze across its 686-strong team.
“We managed not to have any redundancies and we came through the year well,” Mr Cooney added, predicting “adequate profits” in 2010.
Owned by the Cooney family since the 1970s, the Gleeson Group was initially a Guinness bottler but now distributes everything from soft drinks to beers and ciders.