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Firm behind Shloer warns a Brexit would hamper economy

By Margaret Canning

Published 04/03/2016

Brenda Salters of SHS - which owns the likes of Schloer - £105m
Brenda Salters of SHS - which owns the likes of Schloer - £105m
WKD
Elaine Birchall

Northern Ireland food and drink business SHS Group, which owns Shloer and WKD drinks among other consumer brands, has said a Brexit could marginalise Northern Ireland.

SHS, which is one of the province's top companies and employer of 757 people, said leaving the EU would be "disruptive" for both its governance and compliance.

The firm has major operations in Great Britain - where its last acquisition was Merrydown - and in the Republic, where it owns brands such as matches business Maguire & Paterson.

Group chief executive Elaine Birchall said it was most worried about the impact on the UK economy, which would have implications for Northern Ireland.

"The capacity to leverage the opportunities for the Northern Ireland rate for corporation tax requires inward investment and favourable trade regimes as well as industry confidence," she said.

"I feel that a Brexit will create significant instability for several years, and the challenge of extracting the UK from the EU and setting up new policies and agreements will marginalise the Northern Ireland economic growth agenda."

Pre-tax profits at SHS Group were down 11% to £17m, according to accounts for the year ending January 2015.

During 2015, the company snapped up a final share of 5% of Woodchester Enterprises - the company behind cordial Bottlegreen - after buying a majority shareholding in the firm in 2011.

As well as Bottlegreen and Shloer, SHS also owns Merrydown Cider and British Pepper & Spice, as well as Maguire & Paterson and distribution firm Clayton Love in Dublin.

Ms Birchall joins Moy Park's Janet McCollum, Montupet's Jim Burke and W&R Barnett's Richard Barnett in saying the UK is better off in the EU.

But medical testing boss Dr Peter FitzGerald of Randox has described the EU as a "complex issue". "Randox is a UK-based company and we export around the world," he said. "But this is a decision for the British electorate."

Meanwhile, the head of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has said the UK could have a "brighter" economic future outside the EU if the country was prepared to weather the economic disruption of a Brexit.

BCC director-general John Longworth said he would like to remain in a reformed EU, but the 28-member bloc had shown itself to be incapable of major change.

He told the BCC conference in London that in the June 23 EU referendum, the country faces a choice between "the devil and the deep blue sea". The BCC is not campaigning, "not least because the business community in the UK is divided on the issue of Europe". Instead, it will survey member firms and report their views.

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