Applegreen Taking a Bite out of the Competition

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The recent acquisition of UK motorway giant Welcome Break from well-known Irish forecourt operator Applegreen is an indicator of just how serious they are regarding globalisation of their brand.

Agreeing to buy a 55% holding in Welcome Break from NIBC’s European Infrastructure Fund for €361.8m (£322m) Applegreen is showcasing the ambition that they for the future. This move could be the start of international determination for Applegreen becoming a bigger household motorway name. Whilst not much has been said about future plans for investment, it would appear that this deal, making Applegreen one of the big 3 when it comes to MSA operators in the UK and Ireland, is an indication of exactly where they want to be.

Speaking to City A.M. Applegreen Chief Operating Officer and co-founder, Joe Barrett, added that “he did not expect the deal to need to clear any competition regulations due to the difference between the two companies’ estates.” A rather fortuitous turn of events for Applegreen, meaning they won’t expect any form of retort from opposing parties. Joe added “The UK market has always been a core part of our strategy since we became a publicly listed company three years ago.

Joe spoke directly to IF&CR regarding what this means for Ireland locations explaining: “The move gives us enhanced operator possibilities and brings new brands such as KFC, Pizza Express and WHSmith to Applegreen.” Joe alluded to the fact the move strengthens the group across all locations and enhances their buying power. With an estimated 5,000 staff within Welcome Break and a further 5,000 at Applegreen, the twofold of personal is seen as a positive from Joe.

Joe also commented: “These types of opportunities don’t come around that often, so it was one that we, as a management team, had to consider it.  The strength of the Welcome Break franchise, the excellent management team and the committed staff at each of its 35 locations made it a very attractive acquisition for Applegreen.  We are really looking forward to working with the food and shop brand partnership.  This is a transformational for Applegreen; it significantly strengthens our Motorway Service Area network in the UK and it increases our food and beverage offering.”

Comment came from Applegreen CEO Bob Etchingham, who said: “Welcome Break is a fantastic business; it has led the way in providing the very best food and beverage facilities on the UK motorways. We were attracted to Welcome Break because of the strength of its franchise, the excellent management team and the committed staff at each of its 35 locations. We look forward to continuing to grow the Welcome Break business and to offering its 85 million customers who visit Welcome Break each year the very best experience on UK motorways.”

This is a bold move from the Irish forecourt retailer and one that you can expect to hear more about in the coming months. Through these agreements, Applegreen says that it will be able to obtain “greater operational influence over Welcome Break”. This could mean, in the future, we could see a global picture emerging for Applegreen.

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