THE days of Guinness at St James's Gate are numbered as Diageo prepares to move to a greenfield site on the outskirts of Dublin, the Sunday Independent understands.
It is expected that the sale of the extensive city-centre site would fetch close to €3bn.
According to sources at the company, plans are under way at senior management level to begin the move away from the city centre to a large new plant to be built at a greenfield site to the north of Dublin.
There was much talk among employees at the world-famous firm last week about the company's plan to move, which is expected to involve substantial job losses.
The plant dates back to 1759, and since production of Guinness in London has been moved to Dublin a major overhaul of the company's operation in Dublin is required.
It is believed that given the age of the buildings at St James's Gate, it is preferable to sell much of the site and start with a new brewery.
One area that has been mentioned is Balbriggan, given its proximity to the proposed new Dublin Port.
Such a new plant would be a great attraction for the company. While the cost of building a new plant would be very substantial, the sale of lands in the city centre for €2.5-3bn would offset such expenditures. The area around the brewery has also been designated by the City Council as a new development quarter.
A spokeswoman for the company said that while Diageo consistently monitors its operations and output, any talk of the company moving out of the extensive James's Gate site was "pure speculation". However, when asked to clarify whether there are any plans to move from the city centre or whether the company was looking at purchasing any site on the edge of Dublin, the spokeswoman refused to deny it, again using the words "pure speculation".
Diageo Ireland employs more than 2,200 people in its various plants around the country but any move would involve a streamlining of the operation while ensuring an increase in capacity.
Last month Diageo reported a decline in European sales in the six months to the end of December, led in particular by weakness in Ireland, Britain and Spain. Michael Patten, a spokesman for Diageo Ireland, attributed the weaker overall performance to a move away from pubs to home consumption.
According to Mr Patten, about 70 per cent of the group's Irish sales in 2001 were in pubs, compared with j 50 per cent today.