Polish food company Colian Holding SA has bought Irish chocolate maker Lily O’Brien’s for EUR40m (US$48.2m) from the Carlyle Cardinal Ireland Fund.

Lily O’Brien’s – based in Newbridge, County Kildare – was founded in 1992 by former independent senator Mary Ann O’Brien. The transaction was conducted on a debt and cash-free basis and is set to be completed sometime in January, according to a statement from private-equity fund the Carlyle Cardinal Ireland, which is jointly owned by Carlyle Group of the US and Ireland’s Cardinal Capital Group. 

Lily O’Brien’s chocolate products are distributed in Ireland, the UK, the US and Australia, with international markets accounting for more than 80% of its turnover. The company generated revenues in excess of EUR30m in 2016.

Colian is one of Poland’s largest confectioners and competes against the likes of Mondelez International and Lotte-owned Wedel. In 2016, the company – which owns brands including Jutrzenka sweet treats and Goplana chocolate – acquired upmarket UK chocolate group Elizabeth Shaw for GBP2.3m. 

Lily O’Brien’s chief executive Eoin Donnelly said: “We selected Colian as the new owner for the business given our shared vision of growing our brand globally. Colian exports to over 60 countries worldwide, providing us with access to potential new markets, and their commitment to new product development and innovation is very exciting for employees and the company.” 

The purchase of Lily O’Brien’s confirms reports made throughout 2017 that the maker of chocolate, confectionery and desserts might be up for sale.

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Jonathan Cosgrave, managing director of The Carlyle Group, said: “Lily O’Brien’s was our first investment in the Irish market and working with a world class management team led by Eoin and Mary Ann has been a privilege for us. The business has grown in every respect during the four years of our investment and the acquisition price recognises the value of both the Lily O’Brien’s brand and the capabilities of the business.”