One of Newtownabbey’s biggest employers, Chain Reaction Cycles, has confirmed that it is to merge with rival company Wiggle.
Responding to mounting speculation regarding a possible takeover, representatives of the Doagh-based online cycling retailer confirmed on Friday (February 12) that a merger will go ahead, subject to the necessary approvals.
The company, which was founded in Ballynure in 1984, is now one of the biggest online sports retailers in the world.
Chain Reaction employs more than 500 staff at its sites in Belfast, Doagh, Ballyclare and Sandyknowes.
Managing Director of Chain Reaction, Chris Watson said: “During recent months our shareholders have been discussing a potential merger with Wiggle. Those discussions have just been concluded and we are announcing the merger of Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles.”
He added: “We believe that combining our businesses will further leverage the deep expertise and passion of our committed and capable workforces.
“The merger of Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle is subject to a number of regulatory approvals, including from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The outcome of the CMA process could take three to five months or longer.”
Clarifying the plans for the months ahead, Mr Watson said: “During the regulator’s review it will be business as usual. Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles will continue to operate as independent businesses. Both brands will be retained and it is unlikely that there will be any significant operating changes to either of the businesses before Autumn 2016.”
South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan described Chain Reaction as “one of our biggest employers” and said the move could be “great news” for the company.
Welcoming news of the merger, he said: “I will be meeting with representatives from the company in the coming days. My biggest concern would be about jobs. We need to make sure that the jobs are retained here. It will then be up to us as politicians and the community to make sure the company can continue to be successful and keep growing.”
South Antrim DUP MLA Paul Girvan also hopes that jobs are protected. He said: “Chain Reaction is a big contributor to the South Antrim area and one of the major employers in the region. I want to ensure that jobs at the sites will be protected.
“The founders of the company have had the vision to create the successful business and should be congratulated for what they have achieved.
“They have supported the local area for many years now and I hope that this policy will be continued.”
South Antrim SDLP representative Cllr Roisin Lynch believes that Chain Reaction has been a success story for the area.
She said: “Chain Reaction Cycles has shown that we can build positive outward looking businesses, which attract inward investment in the region. I would welcome any merger as long as existing jobs are secured and if possible more jobs are created.”
Ballyclare Progressive Unionist Party representative Scott McDowell echoed these sentiments, saying: “We can only hope that this development safeguards jobs in the town.
“The company is a lifeline to many people here in the town and hopefully there’s more good to come from this.”
Portsmouth-based Wiggle began trading in 1999. It currently employs more than 350 staff.