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Competition body approves LacPatrick and Lakeland Dairies merger

A merger between dairy co-ops which collect milk from around 1,350 farmers in Northern Ireland has been given the thumbs-up by the competition watchdog. (Chris Bacon/PA)
A merger between dairy co-ops which collect milk from around 1,350 farmers in Northern Ireland has been given the thumbs-up by the competition watchdog. (Chris Bacon/PA)
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A merger between dairy co-ops which collect milk from around 1,350 farmers in Northern Ireland has been given the thumbs-up by the competition watchdog.

The takeover of LacPatrick in Monaghan by Lakeland Dairies, which is based in Cavan, was backed by over 90% of the co-ops' members in meetings held last year.

The merger will create the second-biggest milk processor on the island of Ireland with a milk pool of 1.8 billion litres, second only to Glanbia.

Among its products, LacPatrick makes powdered milks in a factory near Strabane, while Lakeland operates the Pritchitts factory in Newtownards making products such as milk portions for catering.

Approving the merger yesterday, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said: "Lakeland and LacPatrick are two major dairy co-operatives that operate on the island of Ireland.

"Both procure conventional bulk raw milk and supply a variety of processed dairy products to domestic and international customers.

"The CMA found that the merger does not give rise to competition concerns in either the procurement of conventional bulk raw milk from farmers, or the supply of processed dairy products to customers.

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"Findings show that the two firms are not each other's closest competitors and will continue to face strong competition from other suppliers after the merger," the CMA added.

"Throughout the investigation, the CMA cooperated closely with the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, which also investigated the merger."

The merged entity, which will be known as Lakeland Dairies, will start trading at the end of this month.

Michael Hanley, who will be chief executive of the merged entity, said: "We're very pleased to have reached the conclusion of this process which is now a starting point for future significant progress.

"We are energised and ambitious to create strategic advantages in an intensely competitive market environment where we intend to ensure the best possible realisation of the benefits of this merger for our members and for all of our customers around the world."

LacPatrick chairman Andrew McConkey said the deal brought "stability" for the next generation of farmers.

It was formed in 2015 following a merger between Town of Monaghan Co-op and Ballyrashane Creamery, Co Antrim. Lakeland Dairies has been operating since 1990.

Belfast Telegraph

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