Saturday 16 November 2019

US buyout deals have been costly for Irish firms

David Dilger
David Dilger

Like the Beatles, Irish businesses have struggled to crack the US market. C&C isn't the only big Irish company to fall flat on its face after spending big in the States. Here's are some of the most inglorious failures.

Kingspan's $120m purchase of Tate Global

The 2000 deal to buy raised flooring group Tate was Kingspan's first major toehold in the United States.

However, expected orders didn't arrive and litigation ensued with its former owners. Finally, in 2005 a €25.9m settlement was agreed.

Bank of Ireland's $370m buyout of First Bank of New Hampshire

A booming debt-fuelled property market. What could possibly go wrong? In 1988, Bank of Ireland entered the US market just before the property market tumbled. Having struggled with a mountain of bad loans, it raised the white flag, merging the operation with Royal Bank of Scotland's Citizen's Group in 1996.

Riverdeep's $1.6bn deal for Harcourt Mifflin

In December 2006, Barry O'Callaghan's Riverdeep bought US rival Harcourt Mifflin in a debt-funded $1.6bn buyout. Six months later the enlarged group took on even more debt with the $4bn purchase of a Reed Elsevier and other Harcourt divisions as it bulked up to become one of the biggest educational publishers in the world.

Within weeks the "credit crunch" hit as markets slammed shut and debt became a toxic prospect. Shareholders were savaged as the lenders took control of the company, with O'Callaghan losing a fortune.

Iona and $270m Netfish

In February 2001, Iona splashed out $270m for US technology company Netfish in an all-share deal.

Within two years Iona had written off about $268.7m, effectively reducing the value of Netfish to zero.

Greencore and Imperial Holly

Greencore's move into the US sugar business was described by then CEO David Dilger (inset right) as "a disaster".

Prices tumbled and Imperial's debt proved a major burden. The Irish company wrote off nearly €70m on its investment in 2001.

Sunday Indo Business

Also in Business