Panamanian company Top Brands International has just announced that it has acquired Neutral Duty Free, the largest duty free chain in Uruguay, employing more than 500 staff across its nine locations. No financial details were released.
With this acquisition, Top Brands surges to become one of the largest duty free operators in the region, with 80 stores throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, Danny Yohoros, President of Top Brands International, tells TMI.
Neutral, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017, had been acquired by San Francisco-based private equity house JH Partners in 2011. Respected industry executive Enrique Urioste, who has been CEO since the acquisition by the fund, will remain as CEO with the company under the new ownership. The chain of stores has been rumored to be for sale for quite some time, particularly in light of the challenging economic situation affecting the border business in South America.
“This is a very strategic move for us. We see tremendous potential ahead for the Neutral stores on the border,” says Yohoros. “The economy in Brazil is getting better and with the synergies that will accrue with our existing companies, we will bring greater strength and value to the business.”
Yohoros points out that Top Brands had already been operating duty free shops on the border between Uruguay and Brazil in Rivera and Rio Blanco, and has the experience needed to make the business go forward.
The Neutral border stores are located across the main land access routes into Uruguay, in the cities of Artigas, Rivera, Bella Unión, Río Branco, Aceguá and Chuy. The largest Neutral duty free store is the new 4,000 sqm super store in Melancia Mall in Rivera.
Neutral Duty Free Shop is also the exclusive franchisee of Gap Inc. for Uruguay and Paraguay. The company operates standalone duty-paid stores in the Uruguayan local market as well as branded store-in-stores at different Neutral duty free locations on the border between Uruguay and Brazil.