Chinese firms expected to show interest in NI poultry giant Moy Park
Northern Ireland poultry giant Moy Park may attract the interest of a large Chinese buyer after being put up for sale by its Brazilian owner JBS.
The Chinese group WH, which controls the American company Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, has been tipped as a suitor for the business in the Brazilian media. Chinese investor relations director Luis Chein recently said that the group's expansion targets are in Europe and the US, with plans to expand in the beef and chicken markets.
Other companies believed to be interested in the business include US-based Tyson Foods and Brazilian company BRF.
The company will seek over £1bn for the business, with sources stating that the scale of the business would limit the potential for a European trade buyer.
Moy Park, which is Northern Ireland's largest private employer, may also appeal to private-equity buyers.
Sources said that CapVest, the private-equity vehicle headed by Cavan man Seamus Fitzpatrick, could be among the interested parties.
If a buyer is not found, JBS could consider an Initial Public Offering (IPO) for the company, a plan which had been strongly considered by Moy Park's previous owner, food business Marfig.
Based in Craigavon, Co Armagh, Moy Park employs 6,300 people in Northern Ireland and a total of 12,000, including at operations in the Republic and elsewhere in Europe. The business is a huge buyer of poultry on both sides of the border.
Brazilian meat packing giant JBS said last week it planned to raise around €1.6bn (£1.4bn) from a divestment plan to help cut debt. It had bought Moy Park in 2015.
JBS - whose controlling shareholder recently agreed to pay the world's largest 'leniency fine' to settle its role in a Brazilian corruption scandal - said the plan presented to its board includes stakes in dairy company Vigor Alimentos, Moy Park and US-focused Five Rivers Cattle Feeding.
Moy Park recorded pre-tax profits of £35.7m in 2015.
Moy Park chief executive Janet McCollum said: "Moy Park is a successful and growing food business with a solid financial standing.
"I know that this will ensure our continued growth and stability well into the future."