Tuesday 12 November 2019

Farmers' multi-million deal to go ahead despite voting 'irregularities'

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A PAYOUT of €10,000 for thousands of farmers will go ahead despite voting irregularities in a crucial ballot.

The country's largest dairy company, Glanbia, insisted last night that a €230m deal approved by farmers was still valid, despite the total number of votes cast exceeding the number of eligible voters.

The ballot involving Glanbia Co-op's farmer shareholders took place on November 28 and was called to give the go-ahead to major changes in the co-op's relationship with Glanbia Plc.

However, it has now been admitted that the number of votes cast exceeded the number of shareholder admission cards scanned for the meeting by 32.

Put simply, there were 32 more votes than eligible voters.

The ballot, which took place in Gowran Park Racecourse, was overseen by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS).

ICOS chief executive, Seamus O'Donohoe, attributed the discrepancy to "human error".

"While every effort is made to ensure an accurate procedure, some degree of human error in the process up to the count and minor differences from one stage to the next are not unusual or of undue concern," ICOS said in response to queries from the Irish Independent.

The organisation also refuted suggestions that the problems with the November 28 vote invalidated the ballot.

However, the controversy is proving acutely embarrassing for Glanbia, since the co-op rule changes that necessitated the vote have proven extremely contentious among the co-op's farmer shareholders.

The Glanbia vote was called to give the green light to a proposal which would see Glanbia Co-op's stake in the Glanbia Plc drop by 10pc, from 51.4pc to 41.4pc.

The 10pc is valued at around €230m. Close to €70m is earmarked to provide additional equity for a new dairy processing venture involving both Glanbia Co-op and Glanbia Plc. The remaining €160m is to be shared out among the co-op's 16,000 shareholders in the form of plc shares.

Because the co-op is relinquishing its control of the plc, 75pc support for the rule change was required from the two votes at Gowran Park. The overall ballot received a comfortable 82pc 'yes' to 18.2pc 'no'.

A further two confirmatory votes are scheduled for the same venue next Wednesday.

ICOS insisted yesterday that the result of the November 28 vote stood and that farmers could have faith in the organisation to oversee next Wednesday's ballot.

But opponents of the Glanbia deal say the controversy will undermine farmer confidence in the process.

Irish Independent

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