The EU has approved agrifood giant ABP’s full buyout of two leading meat brands that farmers fear will damage competition in the beef sector.
Businessman Larry Goodman’s ABP has been cleared to acquire a remaining 50pc stake in Fane Valley Co-op’s red meat holdings, which includes Ireland-based Slaney Foods and Northern Ireland’s Linden Foods.
The cost of the merger has not been disclosed.
The move cements Mr Goodman’s strong position in the meat-processing industry across the island of Ireland.
The European Commission said yesterday that the merger “would raise no competition concerns because ABP already had joint control of the companies and the change to sole control would have a limited impact on the market”.
Farmers had asked the Government to block the merger when it was first announced in May of this year, citing competition concerns.
Irish Farmers’ Association ( IFA) president Tim Cullinan said at the time that the “consolidation of the buying power for livestock in the hands of a few has to be addressed” by the authorities.
At the time, ABP Chief Executive Frank Stephenson said the joint venture had enabled the companies “to compete more effectively nationally and internationally” and that the time was “right” for a merger to help them face the challenges of “changing agricultural policies, Brexit and Covid-19”.
Fane Valley chief executive Trevor Lockhart said in May that “the future objectives for Linden, Slaney and ICM can be best achieved under a new business structure”.
Slaney and Linden have been jointly controlled by ABP and the UK’s Fane Valley since 2016 and 2017, when ABP bought a 50pc stake in the businesses.
Slaney Foods has three slaughtering plants in Ireland for cattle and sheep, and a lamb processing plant in Belgium.
Linden Foods has three plants in the UK, two of which are in Northern Ireland.
The businesses will continue to operate under their respective trading names for the foreseeable future and the sites will continue to operate as normal, ABP said previously.