Wednesday 13 December 2017

In focus: Founding Roadstone laid the ground for successful venture into tolls business

The late Tom Roche Snr founded NTR in 1978, and also earlier established Roadstone, a building aggregates firm that was later merged with Cement Ltd in 1970 to form CRH, the global building materials giant that is now Ireland's biggest company.

The Roche family has continued to nail its colours to the masts of some highly successful ventures, while some have gone awry, most notably Bula Mines, which was co-founded by Tom Roche Snr in 1971. Litigation related to the venture would run on in the courts for more than 25 years.

"I was ambitious, even as a youngster," Tom Roche Snr once said in an interview. "I wanted to build something, no matter what.

"The trigger for all that was a small business for which my mother paid £250. It consisted of a yard where we stored coal and a machine with which we made concrete blocks."

The investment family's activities are now headed by 60-year-old Tom Roche Jnr who is also chairman of NTR. He had worked closely alongside his father for many years. With a Masters in economics from Trinity College, Dublin, Tom Roche Jnr also holds an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. NTR's foray into the roads business -- first the East Link and then the West Link in Dublin -- was never a certain winner. The West Link, though hated by motorists, was a big gamble for NTR, having been built at a cost of £30m (€38m) and opening in 1990.

But the company later reaped the rewards as the State bought it out in 2007 for about €600m all told.

NTR also made hay when it first sold the US-based operations of its 51pc-owned wind energy Airtricity subsidiary to German firm E.On in 2007, netting about €700m for the company. In 2008, it sold the remainder of the mostly European-based Airtricity-based business to Scottish & Southern Energy, netting a further €850m.

In 2008, the Roche family received dividends amounting to €30m from two investment companies they control.

The dividends were just part of the windfall profit they received after the sale of the West Link and Airtricity.

Tom Roche Jnr is married to Ann, a daughter of late hotel magnate PV Doyle. She owns nearly 11pc of the hotel business, which controls 11 high-end properties including the Westbury in Dublin and hotels in the UK and the United States. Their children also own stakes in the hotel business.

The recession may have dented some of their holdings, but the reality is that the family could make big gains from NTR's plays in solar energy and waste recycling, as well as its re-entry to the wind energy business in the US.

Irish Independent

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