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Billionaire Denis O'Brien Laura Hutton/
fuelled to go

Denis O'Brien is waving goodbye to his Topaz service station empire

The company is being sold to a Canadian firm for a secret sum.

Updated 16.40

DENIS O’BRIEN-OWNED SERVICE station chain Topaz will be sold to publicly listed Canadian operator Couche-Tard for a secret sum.

The two companies announced they had signed a deal that would also include the Esso chain O’Brien’s firm recently took over for a reported €70 million.

That acquisition gave the media and telecoms tycoon’s forecourt empire a roughly 30% share of the Irish retail fuel market, making it the dominant player in the Republic with 162 company-owned service stations.

Topaz’s takeover by the Canadian company is expected to be completed in spring next year, assuming it clears regulatory hurdles.

In a statement, Couche-Tard said the two parties “have agreed not to disclose the purchase price for this acquisition” but the deal would be paid for from cash and existing credit.

O’Brien took outright ownership of Topaz after buying €300 million of its debts from the IBRC for a reported €150 million. The Irish Times said industry sources put the value of the sale announced today at more than €450 million.

Topaz chairman John Callaghan said the last two years had been a “period of phenomenal development and improvement for the company”.

We know (Couche-Tard) will build on the foundations we have put in place and bring a new dimension to the industry in Ireland to the benefit of the economy, our customers and our staff,” he said.

geograph-1048711-by-Tom-Nolan Tom Nolan Tom Nolan

A game changer

Topaz chief executive Emmet O’Neill, O’Brien’s nephew, said the deal would be a “game changer” for the retail sector in Ireland.

Both O’Neill and former taoiseach Brian Cowen were first appointed to the company’s board in May after O’Brien’s takeover of the company.

The Québec-based Couche-Tard operates nearly 15,000 convenience stores and service stations worldwide, more than half of which are in North America.

The company also has significant interests in Scandinavia, Russia and eastern Europe. In the US it operates under the Circle K name, which will be used as the main brand for its outlets outside its native Canadian province.

Alimentation_Couche-Tard_at_night_in_Montreal,_QC Wikimedia Wikimedia

Earlier this year O’Brien pulled out of plans to list another one of his companies, Digicel, on the New York Stock Exchange, blaming weak market conditions for abandoning the float.

First published 1.18pm

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