RP Adam, a fourth-generation family business from the Borders, has been acquired by the £10 billion turnover US group Ecolab for an undisclosed sum.

Geoffrey Adam, who has been chairman of the company since 1968 and holds the vast majority of the company’s shares, is retiring.

The Selkirk-based manufacturer of cleaning and disinfectant products is in the hands of the fourth generation of the Adam family, and trades as Arpal Group.

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The company has a strong footprint in long-term care and commercial catering sectors in the UK and Ireland and recently expanded into the thriving hospitality sector in the Middle East.

Minnesota-based Ecolab was founded in 1923 and describes itself as a “global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services”.

It has a presence in the UK which is equal in size to RP Adam, and this is the first acquisition the group has made in the UK.

RP Adam employs 85 factory and field staff in Selkirk, while a further 46 employees are based in Dubai. Its turnover for the year to June was about £15 million.

As recently as October, RP Adam outlined plans to increase its annual production by 50 per cent across the UK and the Middle East by 2020.

All jobs will be retained, confirmed Ecolab’s Aaron Gardiner, who also confirmed that the business would continue to trade as the Arpal Group. He said: “We’re going to look at integration, we’ve got a team split up to look that. We will definitely spend time learning through that process and as it stands and for the foreseeable future it is business as usual.”

Mr Gardiner, the company’s vice president institutional, region north, will head up the integration, working with Max Adam, RP Adam’s sales and marketing director, and son of Geoffrey Adam.

Staff were told yesterday about the sale with Mr Adam saying there was “amazement and shock” in the room.

“We’ve got a lot of long-term employees that work for us,” he added. “We had breakout sessions telling them what was happening and I can honestly say there were a lot of smiles on people’s faces, it’s gone well.”

RP Adam was founded in 1891 by Robert Purves Adam, who was manager of the local gas works in Galashiels. It became a limited company in 1934 and grew its retail presence, with the production of polishes, detergents, soap flakes, and laundry.

Since Geoffrey Adam became chairman the company has moved its focus into the industrial space and in 1996 it set up Arpal Gulf in Dubai to provide a range of commercial cleaning and disinfection products across the Middle East.

In recent years the company has invested more than £1m in upgrading its Selkirk facilities, including a reconfiguration of the factory and warehouse which created a 40 per cent increase in capacity.

As part of its expansion strategy to 2020, RP Adam planned to invest more than £2.75m in its Selkirk and Dubai bases, to reach production targets of 12 million litres of liquid and 650,000 kilogrammes of powder product.

The decision to end the family ownership of the business was, said Mr Adam, ultimately his father’s decision

“We’ve got to think not just short term future but medium and long term in a very competititive market in the UK,” he said. “There is a lot consolidation in the market and in the long-term to be associated with the global number one can only be good news for the future of the business.”

RP Adam believes that Ecolab’s global reach in corporate accounts presents “significant opportunities to develop product and equipment innovation, customer and employee training, as well as enhanced customer service capabilities”.

Mr Adam said the company was in good shape for expansion, but added: “Until there has been a thorough assessment of our combined strengths and weaknesses we won’t be able to make any definite projections but it would be nice to think we could lean on the resources that Ecolab bring.”

Mr Gardiner said talks between the parties have been ongoing for so long that he was not sure who instigated the move. “What I can tell you is that the strength and the reputation of Arpal is very strong in the market, they do a lot of things very well, service their customers really well and it is definitely a good fit. They are in the businesses we are in, in cleaning and sanitation. We line up well and the more we learn the happier we are getting.”

Ecolab said the deal brought on board RP Adam’s strength in regional, independent customers and in the long-term care sector, along with Arpal Gulf’s expertise in commercial catering in the UAE.

“Other than the change of ownership, Arpal Group will continue to work with suppliers, customers and distributors as it did before the acquisition,” the group said.