'Difficulties' in meat sector sees a 50% fall in profits at Linden Foods
Linden Foods, one of Northern Ireland's biggest meat firms, has posted a fall in pre-tax profits of more than 50% to £0.8m after it was hit by the "difficult economic climate".
Around 50% of Linden Foods, which includes Kettyle Irish Foods in Co Fermanagh, was sold by Northern Ireland co-op Fane Valley last week to Irish meat giant ABP.
It is now co-owners of Linden Foods in a joint venture.
Linden Foods specialises in sourcing and processing beef and lamb for retailers and the meat-packing industry in the UK and Europe. One of its best-known brands is Kettyle Irish Foods, which specialises in dry-ageing beef in salt chambers. It sells a large amount of its beef to Marks & Spencer as own-brand product.
Linden Foods employs around 1,079 at Granville Industrial Estate in Dungannon, but it's headquartered in Moira along with the overall Fane Valley Group.
For the year to September 30, 2016, the company reported turnover of £182.7m, which was down 3.6% from £189.5m
Pre-tax profits were also down from £1.7m to £794,713. But employee numbers were up 17%.
Linden Foods said it had maintained "steady growth" in some of its key export markets while making investments in new processing.
However, the company said its results had "continued to be affected by the difficult economic climate within the meat industry".
"The continued weakened consumer confidence in meat products, along with a shortage of supermarket-specified livestock, caused gross margins to be squeezed during the year.
"Despite the difficult economic climate within the industry, the group has continued to invest in capital projects which will help meet its strategic goals.
"The board are confident that the strategic direction of the group will lead to an improvement of results in line with the expectations of its shareholders."
The sale of 50% of Linden Foods to Irish meat giant ABP was given a cautious welcome by the Ulster Farmers Union last week.
Vice president Victor Chestnutt said: "It is early days but ultimately we will judge the success of this new venture on the future producer returns for cattle and sheep."