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Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mary Ann O'Brien outside the Lily O'Brien Chocolate Factory in Newbridge County Kildare. Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Lily O'Brien's chocolate manufacturer bought by Polish company for €40 million

Lily O’Brien’s was founded by Mary Ann O’Brien in the kitchen of her home in 1992.

LILY O’BRIEN’S chocolate and dessert manufacturer has been bought by a Polish company for €40 million.

The Kildare-based company has sold by the Carlyle Cardinal Ireland Fund to Polish group Colian Holding SA.

The acquisition is expected to complete in January 2018.

Lily O’Brien’s was founded by Mary Ann O’Brien in the kitchen of her home in 1992.

Today, the company employs 120 people at its Newbridge plant and generated revenues in excess of €30 million during 2016.

The company that bought the chocolate makers firm is listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange and is a Polish producer and distributor of food products in the confectionary, culinary products and beverage sectors.

Colian has a number of leading and trusted brands in the Polish market, and exports to over 60 countries around the world. Colian also owns the well-known UK chocolate brand, Elizabeth Shaw.

Carlyle Cardinal Ireland Fund bought a majority shareholding in Lily O’Brien’s in 2014.

Other key shareholders were founder Mary Ann O’Brien and CEO Eoin Donnelly.

Lily O’Brien’s will continue to be run by its existing Irish management team led by Donnelly, with O’Brien remaining as a director and consultant to the company.

Lily O’Brien’s has undergone significant growth during the four years of CCI ownership.

Since 2013, total revenues and global export revenues have increased by almost 50%, underpinned by increased investment in production facilities and new product development.

Lily O’Brien’s currently exports more than 80% of its products and the brand is sold in more than 15 countries. In addition to its international retail presence, the company also supplies airlines and food services companies, with the brand available on 20 airlines around the world.

“Lily O’Brien’s was our first investment in the Irish market and working with a world-class management team led by Eoin and Mary Ann has been a privilege for us… It has also created a sustainable impact for the Irish economy,” said Jonathan Cosgrave, Managing Director of the Carlyle Group.

Nick Corcoran, Cardinal Capital Group founder said the Lily O’Brien’s investment highlights the value of private equity for Irish companies and their management teams.

“We look forward to supporting more Irish companies with investment in 2018. We thank Lily’s management team and employees for all their efforts and wish them and Colian continued success for the future,” he said.

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