Farm Ireland

Monday 18 December 2017

New era dawns for Irish meat firm

CEO of Dawn Meats Niall Browne
CEO of Dawn Meats Niall Browne
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THE boss of Dawn Meats said its move to take a majority stake in Northern Ireland firm Dunbia underpinned its competitiveness in the post-Brexit era.

Waterford-based Dawn Meats ended months of speculation of a potential link up between the two major meat processors as it confirmed the joint venture with the Dungannon-headquartered firm.

The scale of the businesses means it will be examined by the competition authorities, as they will now process around 900,000 cattle and 2.6 million sheep each year.

Dawn Meat's chief executive Niall Browne said this move would bring more opportunities for staff, customers and suppliers.

"Given the uncertainty posed by Brexit, this partnership should further underpin the competitiveness of both operations to the benefit of all stakeholders in the UK, Ireland and across Europe," said Mr Browne. The second-largest beef processor in Ireland behind Larry Goodman's ABP will buy outright Dunbia's operations south of the Border. This means it will operate nine facilities, including Dunbia's abattoir in Slane and a boning hall in Kilbeggan.

Jim Dobson, chief executive of Dunbia, who will be the head of the new Dunbia Joint Venture, said in a "consolidating industry" the deal makes strategic sense, with 15 facilities across the North, Scotland, England and Wales.

It is understood the firms feel the larger scale of supply will give more security to the major UK supermarket customers in the post-Brexit environment.

They will now operate significant businesses in their three markets with Dawn in Ireland, Dunbia in the UK and a 49pc stake in France's second-largest beef processor, Elivia.

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The move follows the approval by the European Commission of the joint venture between ABP Food Group and Slaney Meats, which will see them with 36pc of the premium cattle trade.

Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy said farmers were always concerned about the concentration of ownership in the beef-processing sector because of the lack of competition. He said the major concern for farmers was about getting a fair and viable price return from the market.

The UK is the largest market for Irish beef exports, accounting for over 50pc or €1bn of trade.

Dunbia, run by brothers Jim and Jack Dobson, commands annual sales of around €900m and employs around 4,000 people with exports to 36 countries. It had already sold its pork business in Co Antrim, with rumours of the red meat business sale circulating for some time.

Dawn, which has already taken over a number of small operations in the UK including West Devon Meats in the south-west of England, records an annual revenue of €1.2bn, with around 3,300 staff in eight countries.

Dawn has already produced over one billion beef burgers for McDonalds after signing a five-year €300m deal with the firm in 2012.

The Co Waterford firm was established in 1980 as a small family business and has already diversified into many markets with exports to 48 countries including supermarket, food service and restaurant businesses.

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