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Online cycle shop Chain Reaction 'on brink of £100m takeover'

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland online retail giant Chain Reaction Cycles is on the verge of a £100million take over, it has been claimed.

The Co Antrim family-run firm, which has 540 staff, last night refused to comment on reports that it was being snapped up by rival online retailer Wiggle.

And no one from Wiggle was available to comment on trade reports that a takeover of the company was imminent.

The deal is rumoured to be around £100m and could be completed as soon as next week, according to the reports.

Chain Reaction's success in the online sales of bikes and accessories has made it a dominant player in sport, and a favourite among cycling fans.

But one customer lamented the potential merger of the companies, and said that most people liked to compare prices between the two.

"You might find Wiggle's prices are cheaper, but then Chain Reaction will have better add-ons like free postage and packing," he said.

The company opened a flagship store in Belfast's Boucher Road to complement its online sales. It also maintains an office for research and development in Belfast city centre.

A spokesman for Chain Reaction said: "We don't comment on speculation."

Last year the growing popularity of cycling pushed the Ballyclare-based retailer to sales of well over £150m for 2014, and its mail order operations have made it Parcel Force's biggest customer in Northern Ireland.

The company has been well-placed to benefit from the province's growing profile as a cycling destination.

Northern Ireland played host to the first stage of the world-famous Giro d'Italia in 2014, followed by its Gran Fondo last year.

In its most recent results, Chain Reaction Cycling said it had benefited from "increased media exposure from high-profile global events".

The company was founded by George and Janice Watson as a small bike shop in Ballynure in 1984 - and their four children - three girls and a boy - run the company, with son Chris the managing director.

The family have shied away from most forms of publicity, and were reluctant additions to the Sunday Times Rich List in 2012.

Wiggle's history dates back around 24 years.

The company was bought over by venture capital firm Bridgeport in 2011.

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