£1.7m Libya factory was a mistake, says Tayto crisp boss
The man behind Tayto crisps in the Republic has admitted ploughing €2m (£1.7m) into a factory in war-torn Libya was a “mistake”.
But the company still hopes to revive its operations near Tripoli after the building survived months of Nato bombing and the civil war that led to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
The Tayto operation was forced to hastily withdraw from Libya and ship equipment back to Ireland when civil unrest spilled over into violence last year.
Raymond Coyle, chief executive of Co Meath’s Largo Foods, said the original plan was to use the factory to avoid a 20% charge on importing crisps into Libya — it sends thousands of packets of snacks to the country each month.
But the founder of the Ashbourne-based business now says he is “nearly ashamed” of the amount of money spent on the stalled project.
The 80,000 sq ft factory, built in 2008, was a joint venture between Mr Coyle and Libyan businessman Dr Salah el-Ghraim, who had lived in Ireland and worked as a Halal meat wholesaler for 15 years.
For almost three years it churned out Tayto products and Mr Coyle said it became profitable in its last four months, up to the start of the upheaval in February.
Asked how much he had contributed to the project, Mr Coyle said: “I'd nearly be ashamed to tell you.”
But he added: “It's over two million I put into it.”
He added: “It was a mistake in hindsight ... of course if I knew what was going to happen I wouldn't have done it.”
The abandonment, for the time being, of the Libyan operation was revealed in the company's 2010 accounts.
It also contained a brief note stating: “The equipment acquired was returned to Largo post year end and before the turmoil in Libya began.”
The records show that the company was owed €631,596 (£527,037) in relation to the project last year and add that “the promoters have confirmed their intention to repay outstanding amounts”.