The State’s competition watchdog has cleared the acquisition of meat processor Kildare Chilling by its rival Dawn Meats despite concerns from farmers that the move would reduce competition in the sector.
On Friday, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), which conducted a full investigation into the proposed tie-up, ruled that the acquisition will not substantially lessen competition in the State because the two companies “are not particularly close competitors” in any of their potential markets.
Family-owned Kildare Chilling is one of the main sheep processors in the State, accounting for about 20 per cent of lamb processing. It employs roughly 350 people and had a turnover of €140 million in 2021.
Waterford-based Dawn Meats, meanwhile, is a significant player in the European meat sector, operating some 11 processing, packaging and wholesale facilities on the island with revenues of more than €2 billion.
In a statement, a spokesman for Dawn Meats said the group will invest €10 million in the newly acquired facility. “We welcome this decision by the CCPC and we now look forward to completing the acquisition, which we believe will bring extensive benefits to both Dawn Meats and to Kildare Chilling,” said Niall Browne, chief executive of Dawn Meats.
Farmers’ representatives reacted angrily to the proposed takeover in January when it was announced.
Irish Farmers’ Association president Tim Cullinan claimed the CCPC had failed farmers “yet again” by allowing the deal.
“Allowing any reduction in competition between buyers of cattle and sheep is not acceptable,” he said.
The president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, Pat McCormack, said at the time that while he did not doubt that such an acquisition would be described as consolidation, “it would be much more accurately described as competition reduction, and farmers would look very sceptically at the implications of the move”.
“The trend with Irish beef processing is unmistakable and long term and that is the steady reduction in the number of buyers for farmers’ cattle,” he said.
In its final decision, the CCPC said it examined how the proposed tie-up would affect competition in several markets, including the purchase of live cattle for slaughter within a 100km radius of Kildare Chilling’s slaughterhouse; the purchase of live lamb and sheep for slaughter in the State, and the sale of fresh lamb and beef meat to grocery retailers in the State.
It also investigated the impact of the acquisition on the sale of fresh lamb and beef meat to grocery retailers in the State.
Ultimately, it said: “It is apparent to the CCPC that there will remain a sufficient number of competitors in each of the potential markets considered, and that Dawn Meats and Kildare Chilling are not particularly close competitors in any of these potential markets. As a result, the CCPC has determined that the proposed acquisition will not substantially lessen competition and can be put into effect.”
The full decision will be published on the watchdog’s website within 60 days.