Welcome news for Moy Park as owner plans HQ in Ireland
Workers at poultry giant Moy Park have backed a decision for its parent company to move its headquarters to Ireland.
Brazilian firm JBS is said to be spinning off its international business, and moving the headquarters to the Republic, as part of a restructure of the global company.
Northern Ireland's biggest employer, Moy Park was sold for $1.5bn (£945m) to JBS in 2015.
Moy Park employs more than 9,000 staff in Northern Ireland.
Now, the Unite union, which represents workers at Moy Park, said the move must mean "additional jobs and investment to follow".
Unite's Sean McKeever said: "Reports have now been carried in a variety of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, which indicate that JBS, the largest food manufacturer in the world, has informed its shareholders that it is to seek to relocate its official international headquarters to Ireland. This is a company which reported a net income or profit of £918m on revenues of £32.2bn for the year ending December 2015; it employs more than 200,000 people worldwide.
"The proposed move comes less than a year after the Brazilian company acquired Moy Park, one of Northern Ireland's largest employers, where Unite represents the overwhelming majority of workers."
He said that the union welcomed "moves which will allow a much greater degree of integration between the company's international operation and their holdings in Ireland, in particular Moy Park".
"If approved by relevant agencies globally, the move would potentially result in tiers of management jobs coming to Ireland, as well as additional operational investment," he said.
The original Brazilian company may become a subsidiary of the new Irish registered business, according to reports.
Wesley Batista, chief executive officer of JBS's global business, said: "The proposed reorganisation is a natural step in the continuing development of JBS as a leading Brazilian company in the global food industry.
"We have carefully considered various strategic alternatives to enhance the value of our company and we believe that the proposed reorganisation offers the greatest potential to deliver long-term value to our stakeholders."
Moy Park came in at number five in this year's Belfast Telegraph Top 100 Companies list.
The firm posted pre-tax profits of £35.7m.
Earlier this year the company, which employs 12,000 people across Europe, joined major firms Montupet and fourth-generation agri-business merchant W&R Barnett in backing remaining part of the EU.
Moy Park boss Janet McCollum said "Europe was their market". The firm has operations in the Republic and in England, as well as in the Netherlands and France.