British firm Wiggle in £100m-plus takeover bid of Ballyclare-based Chain Reaction Cycles

Chain Reaction Cycles is headquartered in Doagh

BALLYCLARE headquartered online bike shop Chain Reaction Cycles could be acquired for more than £100 million.

There has been speculation the company - the world's largest online bike retailer - could be bought by British-based rival Wiggle.

The deal would represent one of the largest retail acquisitions in the UK this year if successful.

But it is thought the purchase would require the go ahead from the Competition and Markets Authority, such is the scale of the two firms.

According to trade press website BikeBiz, it is "highly likely that the sale will go through next week".

Chain Reaction Cycles started as Ballynure Cycles in 1984 by George and Janice Watson with a bank loan of £1,500.

Within five years, they rebranded the firm Chain Reaction Cycles and in 1998 changed the focus to mail order.

The online offering was launched in 2000 and from there the firm really took off.

To satisfy demand, the company opened their own 50,000 sq ft warehouse in 2005 and followed this up with a 10,000 sq ft flagship retail premises in Belfast in 2011.

Almost half of its sales are outside Europe, with Australia and the United States key export markets.

It sells 20,000 items daily to more than 160 countries.

The company's website receives more than 8 million visits a month and has more than two million registered users.

Most recent annual accounts for the company showed profits of £3.77 million in 2014 off sales of £153.37m.

It now employs 612 people making it one of Northern Ireland's largest indigenous businesses.

It remains in family ownership with Chris Watson currently managing director.

Wiggle meanwhile was itself bought by Bridgeport Capital for £180m in 2011.

The company was founded in 1999 as a sister firm to Portsmouth bike shop Butlers Cycles.

It has expanded rapidly in recent years and his headquartered in modern offices in Portsmouth.

Last year, the firm moved its main warehouse premises to a new 323,000 sq ft site in Wolverhampton.

In addition to cycling, Wiggle specialises in swimming, triathlon and running gear.

A spokesman for Chain Reaction Cycles said the company "does not comment on speculation".


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