Limerick smart grid company hoping management buyout boosts global growth

Dr Paddy Finn, CEO of Viotas.

A LIMERICK company is hoping that a recent management buyout will enable the firm to grow and develop quicker worldwide.

Viotas, a smart grid firm based in Castletroy, has recently completed a management buyout of 50 per cent of its shares, which were previously owned by Bord na Móna.

Speaking to the Limerick Post, Viotas CEO Paddy Finn said having a semi-state company own half their business led to a lot of bureaucracy in decision making.

“We’re an SME [small and medium enterprise], we’re just over 100 people. An SME has to be a flexible company, it has to be quick on actioning decisions, whereas with Bord na Móna, having a 50 per cent shareholding, it meant that we had a lot of bureaucracy that comes with a semi-state,” Mr Finn said.

“There was some things where we would like to be able to make a decision on something one day and then move forward to actioning it the next, but there was some decisions that when we would make them as a business, they would actually then need ministerial approval, and that could take six to nine months,” Paddy explained.

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Viotas’ expansion to countries outside of Ireland also posed an issue with Bord na Móna as they don’t have a remit outside Ireland.

“Bord na Móna’s main focus is decarbonising Ireland, they don’t have a remit to be focusing on decarbonisation in other countries. As we then as a business started to grow and started to expand internationally, what we were doing wasn’t really aligned with what Bord na Móna’s priorities were.”

Working with AIB and Goodbody, the management of Viotas sought funding from other investors to buy back the shares that were sold to Bord na Móna in 2016.

As well as funding to buy back the shares, Viotas also secured funding to back its expansion plans, both nationally and internationally.

“Our primary interest is in making sure that Viotas as a business achieves its full potential, so that’s our priority. We had discussions with Bord na Móna and, on both sides, it was agreed that what the business needs would be challenging to achieve with a semi-state shareholder in the business,” Mr Finn said.

“Bord na Móna are happy, Bord na Móna have made a very good return out of it, and they’re happy that they’ve made a good return and that we’re positioning the business as best as possible for growth.”

Since 2020, Viotas have tripled their workforce and taken the company from being just an Irish business to an international one, but remain firmly committed to Limerick.

“We’re a Limerick business, we have a 24-hour control centre in Limerick that’s actually operating our grid assets in Australia even, it’s all from Limerick and Limerick has given us great support over the years, we intend to stay here.”

Central to the company’s success, the CEO says, is the staff they have, both in Limerick and elsewhere in Ireland and the world.

“We have an absolutely extraordinary team in the business and they are the making of everything that we do.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be blessed with a team that are just relentless in trying to achieve success,” Paddy concluded.