Thursday 23 February 2017

British EU exit 'not in Ireland's economic interest' - Coveney

Paul O'Donoghue

David Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum by 2017
David Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum by 2017

Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney believes that Britain remaining in the European Union is "strongly in Ireland's economic interest".

Speaking as the Irish food company reported its half year results, Mr Coveney added he thought that it was unlikely that Ireland would benefit to a significant degree from a 'Brexit' .

Such an exit could follow an in/out referendum on EU membership that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hold by 2017.

Dublin-based Greencore has significant operations in the UK, which accounts for over 40pc of group revenue. Although there has been a recent increase in Eurosceptic sentiment in the UK, Mr Coveney says that the best option for Britain is to remain in the EU.

"I think it is very much in the UK's interest to remain in the EU [and] think that businesses believe almost unanimously that the UK should stay in the EU," he said.

He added: "Everything that I have seen and heard suggests that it would be strongly in Ireland's economic interests for the UK to stay in the EU.

"Some people have made out that there could be competitive advantages for Ireland if the UK leaves, but I don't buy it."

Mr Coveney added that he was "very pleased" with the firm's results, which saw the food-maker's revenue increase to £638.8m (€886m) in the six months to the end of March.

This compared to group turnover of just under £620m in the same period last year. The company's operating profit also increased, jumping by almost 8pc from £37.2m to £40.1m.

Pre-tax profits for the period rose to £26.3m from £8m the same time last year.

Greencore's fastest-growing market was the US, where sales of food to go increased by 30.6pc. This now represents around 15pc of the group's revenue. Mr Coveney said the company would have operations revenue capacity of around $700m by the middle of 2016. He added that the US could be a billion-dollar market for the company in the next five to ten years.

Although he did not say if the firm is targeting specific acquisitions at present or when they may take place, he said that the firm would look to continue expanding across the UK and the US "as we normally do, through a mixture of organic expansion and acquisitions".

"We'd look at both, we're expanding in the US but we have such a strong infrastructure in the UK if we can add operations in the UK it's easier to get synergies from them," he said.

Irish Independent

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