Monday 19 March 2018

Ergo: Moy Park in a flap over slow start to Brexit negotiations

Moy Park chief executive Janet McCollum
Moy Park chief executive Janet McCollum
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

It has been a busy few months for Moy Park, one of Europe's biggest chicken processors.

After going through a sales process run by Brazilian owner JBS, the Northern Ireland-based company was sold earlier this month to Pilgrim's Pride in the United States. It's a small world in the meat and poultry trade - Pilgrim's Pride is 80pc owned by JBS.

It won't quite be business as usual for the company headquartered in Craigavon - Pilgrim's Pride aims to take $50m (€42m) in costs out of the business, in addition to the $30m (€25m) taken out by JBS in the past two years. While cost-cutting can be a painful process, it is the Brexit negotiations that are really making Moy Park bosses wince.

Last week, the company added its name to a letter signed by more than 100 major businesses for urgent progress in the next round of Brexit talks.

According to industry site, signatories addressed the letter to the UK Brexit secretary David Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

"Our businesses need to make decisions now about investment and employment that will affect economic growth and jobs in the future," it read. "Continuing uncertainty will adversely affect communities, employees, firms and our nations in the future.

Mario Draghi meeting Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Mario Draghi meeting Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings. Photo: Justin Farrelly

"Businesses across the EU and UK are clear: being able to plan for a transition of up to three years that avoids a cliff edge is critical for our collective prosperity.

"We are therefore writing to urge both sides to be pragmatic and determined to move to the next stage of the negotiations.

"Until transitional arrangements can be agreed and trade discussed, the risk of 'no deal' remains real and has to be planned for, with inevitable consequences for jobs and growth on both sides."

For Moy Park, which has operations on both sides of the Irish border, those talks are more important than most. Little wonder it is in a flap.

Surprise in Skerries as hotel development is rejected

With shortages of both housing and hotels in the Dublin area, one would think that a project that provided a little of both would have been an obvious runner.

But there was surprise in Skerries in north Dublin last week when it was revealed that An Bord Pleanala had rejected plans by local developer Michael Branagan - who formerly ran John McColgan's ill-fated WorldIrish platform - for a new hotel.

The plan included a luxury estate of 24 homes on a greenfield site overlooking the town's popular beach.

Undoubtedly, there were some locally who had objected but others felt it was a strange decision given the apparent widespread support for the project locally - not to mention the fact that this year's Tidy Towns winner has no other hotel.

If such a project is not a runner in a seaside town like Skerries where property is at a premium, where could it be a runner?

Visit wins over delegation of high-level US investors

A cead mile failte was given to a group of  high-level American business people last week - and they left very impressed.

The Kellogg Innovation Network, linked to private research university Northwestern, organised the visit. Irish-American John Power, president of agri-advisory firm LSC International, and Professor Robert Wolcott led a group of 15 entrepreneurs and investors from Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Colorado.

Spending time in the K Club, they visited Dublin, Galway and Limerick, meeting Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and visiting Enterprise Ireland companies. Prof Wolcott was won over. "Ireland represents a prosperity model for others to follow - but I am not sure I've seen the courage and good sense to do so in many other parts of the world," he said.

More importantly, it looks like some business will come from it. Added Power: "Several of the delegation members have already identified interesting opportunities, which I expect will lead to future investment."

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