Saturday 21 September 2019

Samantha McCaughren: Food services groups line up for a bite of La Rousse

Aryzta chief executive Kevin Toland Pic: Jason Clarke
Aryzta chief executive Kevin Toland Pic: Jason Clarke
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

The sale of high-end food services company La Rousse Foods by food giant Aryzta is progressing nicely, I hear. It may make a mouth-watering return for the Swiss-Irish company, now led by former DAA boss Kevin Toland.

Aryzta picked up La Rousse in 2015 from charming Frenchman Marc Armand, who started off his career working for renowned restaurateur Patrick Guilbaud. He built up am impressive operation with La Rousse, which delivers luxury foods to Ireland's top restaurants - its offerings range from grouse to hand-decorated chocolate swirls ready to adorn the finest desserts.

I understand it sold for €25m two years ago, when revenues had reached €37m, and is likely to now fetch up to €40m - a very tasty return for Aryzta, which needs some good fortune after its recent woes.

I am told that food services company Pallas Food and wholesaler Musgrave are the frontrunners.

Although La Rousse would once have been considered quite niche, Irish eating habits have become increasingly sophisticated and both suitors are keen to get a slice of La Rousse's high-margin pie.

Indeed, I believe Musgrave was interested last time around. However, private equity continues to have an appetite for the business and a management-led buyout is still on the table.

Carraig Donn is cashing in on a Rathmines revival

Clothing and gift shop chain Carraig Donn continues its expansion, with a new store in Dublin 6 opening this weekend. The group, headed by businessman Pat Hughes, is taking up a unit in Rathmines’ Swan Centre, which a few years ago was struggling to attract shoppers.

But anchor tenant Dunnes revamped its shop with its new upmarket format and lots more investment is following its lead. The biggest new addition is a large Fallon & Byrne restaurant, a sister of the city centre eatery. Originally due to open in early spring, local residents are eagerly awaiting is debut.

There has also been a social media buzz around the reopening of the Stella cinema, just across the road from the Swan Centre and now owned by Paddy McKillen’s Press Up group. It seems that Carraig Donn, which has stuffed the new store full of Christmas gifts and decorations, is very much on trend with this location.

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Law firm McCann Fitzgerald is beefing up its senior team with six new partners, who are due to be announced in the coming days. Just to make the rest of us feel old, I hear they are all aged under 40 and have focused on some of the high growth areas in Irish law at the moment.

Emily Mac Nicholas, who will be a partner in real estate, specialises in the area of legal tech for residential sales, an area which large law firms are increasingly hot on.

Michael Coonan will be partner in dispute resolution and litigation focusing on global investigations. He did a huge amount of work for IBRC chasing the Quinn assets.

Stephen Holst will be a partner in employment and does a large and increasing amount of whistle-blowing work.

Other partners will be named as Brendan Murphy, partner, corporate; Shane O’Brien, partner, intellectual property; and Éamon Ó Cuív, is a new partner in finance and happens to be Éamon DeValera’s great-grandson.

Dunnes Stores takes dim view of council’s lighting request

Dunnes Stores is planning a major revamp of its store in Bishopstown in Cork, but isn’t happy with the conditions imposed on the development by Cork City Council.

The retailer, headed by the formidable Margaret Heffernan, will demolish part of the existing supermarket and extend it for either retail or restaurant space (an area the company is edging into).

But Dunnes took a dim view of a request that it replace and provide public street lighting. “Cork City Council, as with many other councils, has for many years been the responsible body for public lighting for both maintenance and replacement,” said the retailer. “In essence, they are asking for routine maintenance/upgrades to the lighting to be to be carried out at our client’s expense.”

More importantly, Dunnes was horrified that planners had sought to limit trading hours, as it is currently open 24 hours. Dunnes pulled no punches, complaining that the “conditions are irrational with no basis”.

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An Post boss David McRedmond says many people still have a ‘gra’ for the bright lights of television. The former ceo of TV3 has done a significant sponsorship deal with the marketing team out in TV3’s headquarters in Ballymount. It was announced last week that AddressPal, An Post’s new product, was “the proud new sponsor” of Xposé, TV3’s entertainment and fashion programme.

The 12-month deal covers broadcast and digital sponsorship, branded content and in-show promotions for AddressPal, an online service that provides a proxy address for the delivery from UK and US websites that don’t typically deliver to Ireland. No one will have been better positioned than McRedmond to put a price on the arrangement.

Since taking the job he has also invested in a major TV advertising campaign, ‘World Wide Open’, which went on air last July.

And who would blame him? At An Post he is in the process of trying to close 262 post offices, so the glitz of TV must provide some welcome relief.

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