Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 22 July 2017

Analysis: Brexit heralds a new Dawn for meat sector

Richard Clinton of Dawn Meats, Nigel Maguire of McDonald’s Ireland, and Peter Roche of Dawn Meats mark the billionth burger produced at at Carroll’s Cross
Richard Clinton of Dawn Meats, Nigel Maguire of McDonald’s Ireland, and Peter Roche of Dawn Meats mark the billionth burger produced at at Carroll’s Cross
Richard Curran

Richard Curran

Dawn Meats is one of the biggest and most successful meat processors in Britain and Ireland.

So it is hardly surprising that it may be close to making an offer to buy Dungannon-based Dunbia.

Dawn, owned by the Queally and Browne families from Waterford, is one of those processors which can service the UK market from plants on both sides of the Irish Sea.

The big unknown in the sector is what happens after Brexit? If the UK introduces tariffs on Irish meat imports, large processors might find it easier to service large British customers from UK plants.

Dawn Meats has 3,300 staff through operations at 24 sites across Ireland, Britain and the Continent. Of those, 10 are in the UK. Group turnover is over €1bn but its profit and group margins are not known because the company is unlimited and doesn't have to file group accounts.

Dunbia has 4,000 staff at nine locations. Its biggest is in Dungannon, where it employs close to 1,000 staff. It has two plants in Wales, two in Scotland, two in England and two here. If Dawn were to buy the entire group, it would give it operations at seven more locations in the UK and a group that had a turnover of £787m last year.

Profit margins are notoriously thin in the sector and Dunbia had an operating profit margin of just 1.17pc. Profit before tax last year was £7.1m and net assets £63m.

One in five of all McDonalds burgers sold in Ireland, the UK and Europe comes from Dawn's Co Waterford plant, which is churning out 400m burgers a year.


If the Dunbia deal were to be done, it would give Dawn a consolidation opportunity and increased capacity in the UK where it has very large contracts.

Every Irish meat company with sizeable contracts in the UK has to be concerned about Brexit uncertainty. At this stage the future may still be bright for large processors who can serve the British market from Britain - but it isn't clear what happens to the beef industry back home.


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