Co Tyrone meat processor Dunbia may join the 2 Sisters family fold
Co Tyrone meat giant Dunbia could be set to merge with UK food firm 2 Sisters - the company behind Goodfella's and other brands.
The Dungannon-based firm, which employs 4,000 people across the UK including 1,200 in Northern Ireland, would not comment on the potential £1.3bn merger of Dunbia and 2 Sisters red meat businesses.
Dunbia currently handles 7,000 cattle, 50,000 lambs and 15,000 pigs annually.
2 Sisters is the firm behind household brands Fox's Biscuits, pie-maker Holland's and Irish frozen vegetables and bread label Green Isle.
It employs 23,000 people at 48 sites across Great Britain, including 1,000 staff in red meat plants in Devon and Cornwall.
In December, Belfast Telegraph revealed Dunbia - which has turnover of around £800m - had been considering selling some of its operations.
At the time, a spokesman for the company confirmed the business had been "considering options for maximising the potential of the company going forward" after having "received several serious expressions of interest from would-be investors over the past two years".
An English firm, 2 Sisters was founded by the Boparan family. It announced sales of £792m for the second quarter ending January 30 this year for parent company Boparan Holdings Ltd.
An industry insider told foodmanufacture.co.uk that 2 Sisters was "always acquisitive" and added that he was not surprised by the news.
Dunbia refused to comment but it is understood its bosses may be making a statement later this week. The company produces beef, lamb and pork for the national and international retail, commercial and food-service markets.
Brothers Jim and Jack Dobson have built the company up over the last 40 years from its beginnings as a small butcher's shop in Dungannon.
They rebranded from Dungannon Meats to Dunbia in 2006.
And Danish Crown and Cranswick - two of the biggest pork players in the UK - have reportedly made approaches to buy the pig-processing division of Dunbia.