Wednesday 26 June 2019

Newsmaker: Seamus Fitzpatrick

Seamus Fitzpatrick
Seamus Fitzpatrick
151 Thomas Street

Seamus Fitzpatrick

Even by his own prolific standards, it is turning out to be a busy month for Cavan-born deal-maker Seamus Fitzpatrick.

The London-based 48-year-old heads up CapVest, a €4bn private equity firm that has invested in a raft of European business - including frozen food giant Findus, the biggest poultry processor in Scandinavia and the Irish company behind Batchelors beans.

In the past week, the firm has been linked to a €280m bid to buy One51, a move that would pre-empt that company's own plans to list on the Dublin and London stock exchanges over the next two years. CapVest has bought and sold 150 businesses since it was set up by Fitzpatrick and two associates in 1999. Many, though not all, are in the food sector. Last week the firm bought out the stake it didn't already own in Valeo Foods, an Irish business that owns brands like Roma and Batchelors, for €86.6m. It bought the stake from Origin Enterprises, which coincidental was once, like One51, part of the empire built up by co-operatively owned agri-business IAWS at its historic headquarters at 151 Thomas Street, Dublin.

Valeo was created by merging assets from CapVest and Origin back in 2010.

Capvest is tipped as a seller rather than buyer of its 51pc stake in the €350m Mater Private, held since 2007. One51 investor Larry Goodman is also a Mater Private shareholder.

Low-profile Fitzpatrick did well to snap up an €8m property on a Shrewsbury Road at the bottom of the market in 2010. He is a director of Conroy Gold, which is developing Ireland's only major gold mine.

Right now, One51 is the biggest prize on CapVest's horizon. Under its youthful chief executive Alan Walsh, One51 has been transformed over the past four years from an indebted holding company that presided over a clatter of unconnected investments ranging from bread-making to shipping and waste recycling, into a fairly straight forward plastics business. That involved selling off non-core assets such as Irish Pride and crucially in recent weeks helping drive through plans to break up another investment holding company NTR, where it was a big stakeholder.

Walsh has been streamlining One51 and steering the plc from its current grey market, or privately traded, status towards a market listing, a process that has now caught CapVest's eye.

In its approach, which is understood to have been shared directly with a number of One51 investors, CapVest is understood to have offered the option of current investors retaining a stake in the business, as long as the London firm gains control. The option of some cash today with an opportunity to cash out at a potentially better price down the line may prove compelling. It fits with Fitzpatrick's low key and relatively long-term investment approach. A rarity in a private equity sector notorious for quick flips.

Irish Independent

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