Business Irish

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Plans for Penneys to go it alone

Nick Webb

Nick Webb

TALK that ABF may spin off its phenomenally successful Penneys/Primark retail empire into a separate standalone company is gathering momentum.

Penneys with its €14 bunny rabbit onesies or €12 skinny jeans isn't the most obvious fit for ABF, which is better known for slower moving bread, sugar and Ryvita businesses. Floating off a separate Penneys company might give investors a pure retail play.

The chatter also brings Arthur Ryan into sharper focus. The low-profile Ryan is one of Ireland's most successful and disruptive businessmen. He transformed the sale of clothes through Penneys, by selling ridiculously cheap and on-trend clothes.

The success of Penneys is testament to his ability to read fashion and shift volume. But few would recognise Ryan, even if he came up and slapped them with a wet fish. In fact, most of the archive photographs of him appear to be from the 1980s. Or else he dresses badly.

But there are other rewards. Digging through documents for Sizzles International, part of the complex Primark corporate network, reveals that Ryan owns 229,121 shares in ABF, worth around €7.7m. It also shows that Penneys paid a €150m dividend back to the ABF mother ship. Would ABF really be able to tear itself away from the Penney's cash cow?

Irish Independent

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