Kerry Co-op in row over 'top secret' review results

Claim members 'denied access' to strategic study on stake sell-off and future

High stakes: Edmond Scanlon, the CEO of Kerry Group which some co-op members want to sell their shares in
High stakes: Edmond Scanlon, the CEO of Kerry Group which some co-op members want to sell their shares in
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Kerry Co-op members say they are being denied access to results of a survey on the future direction of the co-operative - including what do with a 13pc stake in Kerry Group worth €2.2bn.

In the summer, Kerry Co-op sent out a consultative document to gauge where farmer shareholders saw the future of Kerry Co-op and what the co-op should do with its 13.7pc stake in Kerry Group.

The document asked members if they wanted to use the shareholding to fund the purchase of the agri-trading arm of Kerry Group PLC, or to establish a milk processing venture by way of a partnership or merger with another trading entity.

Serious differences have emerged in recent months between the Kerry Co-op board and a section of its shareholders, some of whom are represented by the Kerry Co-op Shareholders Alliance.

Alliance members want to sell their remaining 13.7pc stake in Kerry Group PLC, headed by Edmond Scanlon, and share the dividends, worth on average around €165,000, among co-op shareholders.

Alliance member, dairy farmer Dave Scannell from Listowel, said the results of the consultation were released to directors last week but claimed that members are being denied the results.

"The results of the document are top secret to us. None of the normal members have been told the results.

"It's very frustrating, as farmers' money was used to pay PWC to conduct the process and we are being denied access to them," said Mr Scannell. "It's absolutely critical that we are given these results. We feel we have little options left."

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A senior member of the co-op claimed that the results of the survey were as follows: 95pc were against using the 13.7pc shareholding to fund the purchase of Kerry Group's agri-trading arm and 5pc were in favour, while 85pc were against and 15pc were in favour of establishing a milk-processing entity.

Asked if it plans on releasing results of the consultation to shareholders, a spokesperson for Kerry Co-op said: "The purpose of the consultation was to help define our position as we prepare our strategy taking into account the environment, the markets, the economic conditions and the trends in the dairy industry. We added shareholder insight to this matrix. Taking all the data into consideration we will synthesise it to produce our strategic plan and define our long-term objectives."

The spokesperson for Kerry Co-op added that of the 1,507 responses from the survey sent out during the summer, 435 (29pc) asked for shares to be spun out, while 667 (44pc) were not in favour of either of the options proposed in the consultation document.

Irish Independent

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