Food wholesaler and retailer Henderson Group has acquired a Newry food distribution firm for an undisclosed sum.
Henderson Foodservice will relocate the operations of Independent Catering Services (ICS) to its headquarters in Mallusk, Co Antrim. The Newry company is part of wholesale distribution business Savage and Whitten.
Its acquisition gives Henderson a firm foothold in the southern market as ICS supplies to caterers across Ireland.
A spokeswoman for Henderson said the 60 ICS staff would remain employees of that company 'for the time being'.
She added: "It is hoped that all of these employees working in Newry will either transfer to Mallusk or be offered suitable alternative roles within the broader Henderson Group organisation."
Damien Barrett, managing director of Henderson Foodservice, said: "With an annual turnover of over £10m, ICS is a successful food distribution company which has demonstrated great growth potential particularly in the south of Ireland.
"There is obvious synergy between our two companies and this acquisition will bring added value to the ICS customer base through our chilled and frozen capability and additional product ranges whilst ICS's strength in the southern Irish market will add a new dynamic to our customer network".
Henderson Foodservice took control of business in Newry yesterday. The spokeswoman said operations were due to be transferred to Mallusk by March.
Mr Barrett added: "Consolidating distribution onto our Mallusk site enables us to streamline the business, share resources and reduce running costs in general.
"We will be maintaining current employment levels to service existing and new customers as a result of the acquisition. Over the next couple of months we will be consulting with all of these staff to facilitate the transition process and offer any necessary re-training.
"This acquisition marks a positive development in the food distribution sector in Northern Ireland enabling growth in cross border trade and the ability through consolidation to deliver optimum value for customers."
The Henderson Group includes wholesale, retail and property arms.
Around 225 people work in its Mallusk depot and at Streat cafes - the franchise of which was bought by Henderson two years ago - across Northern Ireland.
Group turnover has grown from £504m in the year ending December 2009 to £525.1m a year later.