Meat giant Dunbia in talks with food firm over merger
Northern Ireland meat giant Dunbia is in discussions with UK food firm 2 Sisters about a possible merger, it's been confirmed.
Just last week it was reported 2 Sisters, the firm behind brands such as Goodfella's pizza, was in talks with Dungannon's Dunbia.
But now, a tweet from a 2 Sisters Group account has said it is "in discussion" with Dunbia "about an exciting potential collaboration".
In December, the Belfast Telegraph revealed a teaser document had been prepared to be sent out to businesses interested in snapping up the Co Tyrone company.
Dunbia started off life as a red meat processor, primarily beef, but has now grown its reach across the meat industry.
There had been growing speculation that Dunbia was in the process of being sold to Brazilian firm JBS, which bought Moy Park last year. But the firm has dismissed those claims.
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.
Two other firms, Danish Crown and Cranswick, which are two of the biggest players in the UK pork market, had also reportedly made approaches to buy the pig-processing division of Dunbia.
When the Belfast Telegraph revealed Dunbia was up for sale, a spokesman for the business confirmed it was "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".
"Dunbia has enjoyed consistent growth over the past number of years and has ambitious plans to grow and expand the business," the spokesman said.
"Market dynamics are continually evolving and we are currently exploring the best options, to ensure that we are well placed to meet the demands of the marketplace, now and in the future.
"We have received several serious expressions of interest from would-be investors over the past two years and we are now considering options for maximising the potential of the company going forward."
Set up by Jim Dobson and his brother Jack in 1976, the small Dungannon butcher's shop has grown into a meat giant, with sites throughout the UK and Ireland, turning over £800m each year.
Pre-tax profits at the beef, lamb and pork processor rose to more than £6.5m in the year to March 29, 2015.
Dunbia has grown to employ 4,000 staff - 1,200 working in Northern Ireland. It remains one of Ireland's largest locally owned meat processing companies and exports beef, lamb and pork across the globe.
There has been speculation over the last few years that the company - which has around a dozen sites across the UK and the Republic - could be sold off.