Irish poultry giant Moy Park put up for sale by JBS
Craigavon-based firm directly employs more than 9,000 people in the North
Union leaders in the North have warned that Moy Park’s employees “need assurance” over their future
Moy Park, one of the North’s biggest private sector employers, has put been up for sale as part of a divestment programme by its Brazilian parent group to raise more than €1.62 billion.
JBS has confirmed that it intends to sell all of its shareholding in Moy Park as part of “a divestment programme of non-core and less strategic assets”.
The sales programme also includes its 19.2 per cent shareholding in the Brazilian dairy and food company Vigor Alimentos and the sale of Five Rivers Cattle Feeding assets and farms in the US.
JBS, the world’s largest meat packer, is embroiled in major meat scandal in Brazil. It is accused, along with several other firms, of bribing health officials to forgo inspections and overlook practices including processing rotten meat.
Standards & Poor recently downgraded the credit rating of JBS and Moy Park, citing concerns about financing costs arising from the corruption scandal.
JBS bought Moy Park from rival Brazilian group Marfrig nearly two years ago in a deal worth around €1.32 billion.
Moy Park, which is headquartered in Craigavon, is one of the North’s biggest private sector companies and one of Europe’s largest poultry producers.
It directly employs more than 9,000 people in the North, and maintains a major supplier network in Northern Ireland. It also has processing and manufacturing units in the Republic, England, France and the Netherlands.
Janet McCollum, Moy Park’s chief executive, said it would be “ business as usual” during the JBS divestment programme, which she said was designed to strengthen the Brazilian group’s financial position through net debt reduction.
“Moy Park is a successful and growing food business with a solid financial standing. I have no doubt that our success is due to the great strengths of this business – our exceptional people, innovation and performance. I also know that this will ensure our continued growth and stability well into the future,” she said.
“Our priority remains business as usual – delivering outstanding quality, innovation and service to our customers and consumers.”
However, union leaders in the North have already warned that Moy Park’s employees in the North “need assurance” over their future as the sale process kicks off.
Unite’s regional officer Sean McKeever said the announcement by JBS cast a shadow over its future “at a time when it faces extensive uncertainties as a result of Brexit”.
“Moy Park employs 12,000 workers across the UK, with almost half based at its operations in Northern Ireland; making it the most regionally significant employer here.
“We would be very concerned that this announced sale, coming within a year of its previous acquisition by JBS, may open the door to venture capitalists. They would have no interest in the workforce but would buy the company for its order book, intent on asset-stripping the business for short-term profit,” said Mr McKeever.