Bewley’s brews up a Brexit plan

Irish coffee group has taken a €12m goodwill write-off to reflect the threat of a hard Brexit

Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Like most business leaders on either sides of the Irish Sea, Bewley’s chief executive John Cahill would prefer the UK not to leave the European Union. Although best known in its home market for its cafe on Grafton Street, some 41 per cent of Bewley’s business is in the UK, supplying the food-service industry.

So Brexit is potentially hugely disruptive to the Irish coffee group. Cahill and his leadership team were busy last year preparing for various scenarios to mitigate the impact on the company.

This included taking a near €12 million goodwill write-off to reflect the threat of a hard Brexit on the business. Cahill said the company took a “prudent view” on the potential impact of the UK crashing out of the EU next March with no deal in place. “It was the right thing to do given the backdrop,” he said on Wednesday.

Bewley’s has also invested in expanding its roasting capacity in the UK, and in new warehousing facilities there. It has worked with suppliers to ensure there is no disruption in its pipeline of supplies in the event of a hard border being established and British ports being clogged by customs controls.

Staff have also been put through customs training and have received the necessary authorisations to act as a “trusted trader” for customs purposes.

Bewley’s moves are logical and prudent and highlight the potential dangers of Brexit to the many Irish companies who have significant exposure to the UK economy.

Like most of his peers in Ireland and Britain, Cahill is hoping that the exit deal that has been negotiated by London and Brussels will get through Westminster and provide a basis for companies to prepare for the future.

The alternative is too grim to contemplate, even with a few strong coffees on board.

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