Discount grocery retail giant Iceland has reportedly opened fresh talks with bank officials in the hope of rescuing expansion plans both in Longford and across the country.
The firm’s Irish franchise holder began discussions with brand owner Iceland Foods and an Indian bank to safeguard investment targets aimed at creating over 1,000 jobs nationally.
Details of this latest twist comes after the Leader revealed in February how Iceland senior figures had looked primed to sign lease agreements on a property in Longford.
First mooted back in 2010, attempts to secure the frozen food giant’s presence in the town has arguably been one of the county’s longest running political as well as commercial talking points.
It’s thought the retailer had set its sights on locating beside another discount chain, Aldi just off Killashee Street.
Now, it would appear those plans hinge on how talks, involving the Aim Wholesaling group, owned by Indian Irish businessman Naeem Maniar, Indian lending institution Bank of Barona and Iceland Foods, turn out.
Accounts for the Aim Cash and Carry group filed only recently said the group was putting, for the time being, all expansion plans on hold.
“Management has assessed its overall structure, and decided not to proceed with any further openings in 2013,” said the directors.
The company revealed financing for five new store locations fell through because of difficulties in securing finance.
It also pointed to losses and below par performances at its eight existing Iceland stores over the past two-and-a-half years.
Despite the setback, the company said it remained quietly confident of making its ambitious Irish expansion a reality.
“Iceland sees Ireland as an important part of the business. We are keen for it to expand but we are still looking at ways to achieve that. We have not reached a conclusion,” said the group.
Meanwhile, Cllr Peggy Nolan, one of the main advocates behind the proposed Longford-Iceland link up, said she was staying optimistic.
“This is still a very live issue,” she told the Leader. “The last contact I had with them (Iceland) was about four weeks ago and the response then, was very positive. As far as I am concerned, the premises in Longford was identified with a view to creating upwards of 50 jobs.”