Debate on best way forward for Glanbia has dominated rural life
ANALYSIS:Result of ballot will have major impact on future of Ireland’s dairy industrySome 6,000 hot beef rolls, 10,000 litres of drinking water and 18,000 cups of tea and coffee.
Yesterday’s special general meeting was a feat in evenT management that would give MCD a run for its money. More than 4,600 Glanbia coop members streamed into a specially constructed marquee just outside the picturesque Kilkenny village of Gowran yesterday for the first of two votes on the proposed sale and spin-put of 10 per cent of the co-op’s holding in Glanbia.
Eligible voters had travelled from as far north as Cavan and as far south as east Cork for the ballot, which will have a major impact on Ireland’s dairy industry.
About a quarter of all Irish milk producers supply Glanbia. The company processes around a third of the country’s milk and is also the biggest grain merchant in the country.
Discussion about the best way forward for Glanbia has dominated rural life in the greater Leinster region for the last few months. One farmer shareholder from Tipperary who voted no to yesterday’s proposal explained how a neighbour had paid him a visit during the week.
“He dropped in to me the other day at breakfast time and spent two hours trying to convince me why I should vote yes.”
While he remained unswayed, he was under no illusion as to how the vote would play out. “It will go through,” he said, as the count began at the 10,000 sq m marquee.
While consultation meetings across the country over the last few weeks had been heated, the mood in the marquee ahead of the vote was reported to be more consensual.
“It’s different this time than two years ago,” said one IFA man. “People have made up their mind.”
In the end the vote was passed by 82 per cent, though voter turnout is vital if the result is to be replicated on December 12th.
“It was on the tight side – no room for error,” said a visibly relieved Liam Herlihy as he announced the results of the ballot.
The decision to endorse the 10 per cent share sale and spinout, if backed on December 12th, will mean that the new joint venture, Glanbia Ingredients Ireland, will be well-funded, while farmers will receive an average €15,000-€20,000 worth of plc shares, which they are free to sell.
The no side argues that it is unwise to cede majority control of a plc that has been remarkably successful. The final outcome of this sophisticated but complex proposal is not yet known. However, two years after a proposal to meet the differing needs of the co-op and plc was narrowly defeated, it looks like Glanbia is finally poised for a new stage in its development