THE SUNDAY TIMES (UK): Shell revives unquenched desire to sell Ireland’s oldest company: “IRELAND’S oldest company — and the world’s oldest candlemaker — has been put up for sale. Rathborne Candles, founded in Dublin in 1488, is to be sold as part of the oil giant Shell’s disposal of global non-core assets.” (ShellNews.net)
October 24, 2004
IRELAND’S oldest company — and the world’s oldest candlemaker — has been put up for sale. Rathborne Candles, founded in Dublin in 1488, is to be sold as part of the oil giant Shell’s disposal of global non-core assets.
This is the second time in four years that Shell has sought to dispose of its last remaining candle-manufacturing subsidiary. The sale was shelved in 2000 when Shell moved the company from East Wall, near Dublin Port, to Blanchardstown in the west of the city.
The sale was reheated earlier this year when Shell approached those companies that had expressed an interest four years ago. A management buyout, led by Colin O’Carroll, its managing director, is also a possibility. The sale is being handled by Shell in London and interest is believed to have been expressed from overseas candlemakers.
The oil company said: “Shell can confirm that it is exploring options to find a buyer for Rathborne Candles. Further details of the companies who may be involved remain commercially confidential at this stage. We will make an announcement about the outcome of the process in due course.
“This review is in line with the Shell Group strategy of focusing attention on our core energy and petrochemicals- related business sectors in order to achieve the best return for shareholders.”
Rathborne sells more than 10m candles a year, of which half are sold to churches around the country. The rest are sold through retailers. Candle sales have taken off here in recent years and are now worth over €20m annually. Irish manufacturers, however, have come under pricing pressure from imports from lower cost manufacturers in eastern Europe and parts of Asia.
Founded by John G Rathborne, the company remained in family ownership until 1914 when it was acquired by Unilever. It was sold to a consortium of oil companies, including Shell, in 1923, at a time when the oil giant had a global network of candlemakers. Shell took full control in 1984.
Rathborne employs 22 staff, has annual sales of €3.5m and is profitable. It was founded in Christchurch, within the walls of the old city. Its candles once lit the streets of Dublin in the days before electricity and paraffin lamps. The company also produced the millennium candles that were given by the government to 1.5m households at the turn of the century.