Belfast Telegraph

£340m sale of DIY chain Homebase struck in Northern Ireland, figures show

By Margaret Canning

The massive £340m deal to sell Homebase was agreed in Northern Ireland, where the DIY chain's holding company is based, it has emerged.

Information service Experian revealed that the sale of Homebase to Australian retailer Wesfarmers inflated the value of mergers and acquisitions in the province to more than £392m.

Experian yesterday confirmed that Homebase, which has nine DIY and furniture stores in the province, was incorporated in Northern Ireland as Hampden Group Ltd in 1976.

As well as operating the Homebase stores in the province, Hampden is an investment holding company for subsidiary Home Retail Group firms.

The value of mergers and acquisitions and other big corporate deals in Northern Ireland surged by 90% in the first three months of the year, according to Experian's deal review and advisor league tables for the first quarter. There were 36 transactions involving firms in the province from January to March, down from 42 at the same time in 2015. In a separate deal, Homebase parent company Home Retail Group has sold its Argos business to Sainsbury's for £1.4bn.

Experian, which collects the figures on corporate deals, said the Homebase/Wesfarmers contract "was easily the largest transaction in the region, worth over £320m more than the next largest transaction, in which Glenmore Generation raised £23m in new funding for the development of a new power generation facility".

Law firm Carson McDowell advised on nine of the deals, with a total value of £35m. One of the biggest was the sale of Co Antrim-based Chain Reaction Cycles to major rival Wiggle.

Carson McDowell managing partner Michael Johnston said: "Our solicitors have taken the lead on several landmark deals in recent months, including advising the shareholders of Chain Reaction Cycles in its merger with Wiggle, and Abbey Insurance on all legal aspects of the purchase of Open + Direct."

Corporate law firm Tughans was the most active legal advisor in the period, with 13 deals - and with Carson McDowell in second place - improved on its fourth-place position for 2015.

And at the top of the value table for legal teams were UK-wide firms Herbert Smith Freehills and Linklaters, which both advised on the Homebase deal.

While Homebase was the biggest value deal, there was a 22.2% growth in the number of small deals worth between £0.5m and £10m. However, the value of these deals was down to £17.7m, though the category included Newry-based First Derivatives, which had paid £2.2m for QuantumKDB (UK).

Mid-market deal numbers of between £10m and £100m were down from six to two, while their value also dropped dramatically from £184.7m to £34.6m.

The Hampden Group deal with Bunnings - the DIY arm of Wesfarmers - was the only mega-deal worth more than £100m so far this year.

Belfast Telegraph