Managers at BWG, owner of the Spar and Mace franchises, are set to buy the company from its biggest shareholder, Electra Partners, in a deal that values the business at €400m.

The management team, led by BWG chief executive Leo Crawford and finance director John O'Donnell, has teamed up with businessman John Clohisey to buy the 65% stake held by private equity group Electra. Allied Irish Banks is understood to be providing finance for the buyout, which is expected to be finalised within a month.

Crawford and his managers already own 15% of the company and there had been speculation that they would seek a private equity partner to help fund the deal. Instead the team has opted to join forces with Clohisey, who owns 20% of BWG through his involvement with Electra in the 2002 buyout of the company from its then owner, Pernod Ricard.

At the time, the business carried a €220m price tag. Its current valuation of almost double that amount reflects the rapid growth in convenience retailing in the Irish Republic in recent years as the economy has boomed.

Spar's combined retail sales exceeded €1bn for the first time last year, compared with revenues of €762m in 2002, and profits were up 18% to €55m. Significantly, this growth has been achieved in the face of increased competition, with Tesco and Superquinn entering the convenience market and discounters Lidl and Aldi expanding rapidly.

The company has interests in more than 900 ­

c-stores in Ireland and Britain. At the end of last year, its Irish network included 428 Spar outlets and 138 Maces. Crawford has said he wants to push up the number of Spar shops to at least 500.

BWG also owns Appleby Westward, a Spar wholesaler in south-west England with 340 store franchises.

According to retail sources, the buyout will give the company scope for further expansion, particularly of its Eurospar brand, a relatively new format that is a mix between a convenience store and a supermarket.