Discount chain Aldi has raised £60m for further expansion in the Irish Republic through a sale and leaseback of 11 of its supermarket properties.

The chain, which has just opened its 55th Irish store, in Listowel, Co Kerry, is planning another 20 new outlets before the end of next year. In addition, it is developing a £79m distribution centre in Mitchelstown, County Cork, on the site of a former Dairygold plant.

Two years ago, in a similar sale and leaseback arrangement covering seven supermarkets, Aldi raised more than £30m. On that occasion, Bank of Scotland (Ireland) was involved - this time Bank of Ireland is understood to have provided the funding.

Against a backdrop of grim economic forecasts, rising unemployment and concern over prices, the expansion strategy is paying off. Latest figures show Aldi and Lidl have increased their combined share of the Irish market from 6.8% to 7.1% in the three months to mid-May, the fastest growth recorded in the sector.