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Dale Farm emerges as suitor for all-island dairy co-op

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland’s biggest dairy business Dale Farm says it “has an interest” in talks over the future of cross-border co-op LacPatrick.

LacPatrick’s 700 local farmers were informed this week its board was considering a merger, partnership or joint venture with another business.

Now Dale Farm has confirmed its interest — and if a deal goes ahead encompassing LacPatrick’s interests all over Ireland, it would be Dale Farm’s first significant cross-border move since it bought an ice cream distribution business in the Republic 11 years ago.

Dale Farm group chief executive Nick Whelan said: “As the largest farmer-owned dairy co-operative in Northern Ireland, and indeed the UK, Dale Farm has been made aware of the situation at LacPatrick and we have an interest in these developments.”

LacPatrick was formed in 2015 from a merger of Town of Monaghan co-op and Ballyrashane Creameries in Coleraine.

Lakeland Dairies, based in Cavan, has also confirmed its interest.

And it’s believed LacPatrick has been approached by an overseas business.

But before a merger or joint venture can go ahead, 75% of the co-op’s members will have to approve the deal.

A spokeswoman for Dale Farm said it was “set to report strong financial results for 2017 for the third year running”.

“With headquarters in Belfast, Dale Farm has 10 sites across the UK and a long-standing heritage in the dairy industry,” she added.

Dale Farm owns Dale Farm Milk, Dale Farm Ice Cream, Dromona, Spelga, Fivemiletown, Mullins Ice Cream, Rowan Glen and Loseley.

Its broad dairy portfolio spans milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, sports nutrition drinks, cultured products and desserts.

LacPatrick chairman Andrew McConkey said it had received “a number of approaches”. 

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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