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Petrol retail giant Maxol buoyant as its pre-tax profits triple to €11m for 2015

By John Mulligan

The family owners of fuel group Maxol have no plans to emulate rival Applegreen by floating on the stock exchange, according to Maxol chief executive Brian Donaldson.

He said that the group has enjoyed a strong performance in 2016 and that its development plans have sufficient funding for the next three to five years.

Mr Donaldson spoke as the company behind the Maxol brand - McMullan Bros - posted a pre-tax profit of €11.1m for 2015, on revenue of €569.8m.

The profit figure was more than triple the €3.1m that was reported in 2014. But the 2014 figure had been hit by a €4.8m exceptional charge related to the closure of a defined benefit pension scheme in Northern Ireland. The 2015 profit figure was helped by an exceptional €3m gain on the sale of an asset.

The company was founded by the McMullan family, who are originally from Limavady.

Mr Donaldson said the underlying performance in 2015 had been "very strong", and that this had continued in 2016. He expects the group to post close to a double-digit increase in pre-tax profits this year. That's despite a fall in sterling, which has a negative translational effect on profits.

McMullan Bros also paid a €1.6m dividend last year to shareholders.

"We don't have anything on the cards in terms of an IPO (Initial Public Offering)," said Mr Donaldson. "We are a well-funded, privately-owned business, and we have our finance in place to support our growth plans over the next three to five years."

Applegreen floated on the stockmarket last year, raising nearly €92m to expand its business in Ireland and the UK.

Maxol - founded in 1920 - operates about 111 company-owned forecourts, while there are a total of 234 stations across the island of Ireland. It also has 10 unmanned service stations.

There are around 100 directly-owned stations in Northern Ireland.

The company recently announced its largest development in Northern Ireland at Tannaghmore, Co Antrim, a £3.75m development creating 60 new jobs. The 2.5 acre site is on the main A26 between Antrim and Ballymena

In 2015, it opened a flagship €5m forecourt off the M3 in Mulhuddart in Dublin. That was the single biggest development ever undertaken by the group. Mr Donaldson said the group has spent about €30m on forecourt development this year, compared to €22m in both 2015 and 2014.

Maxol has also teamed up with AIL Group, the owners of the Abrakebabra, O'Briens and Bagel Factory, to trial an offering from the franchise group at an outlet in Dublin.

But Mr Donaldson said that the group will continue to experiment with its food offering until the end of next year, before it has "consolidation and consistency" across its network.

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