Dawn Meats in talks to buy Northern Ireland firm Dunbia
Industry sources say offer is imminent
Irish food giant Dawn Meats is being lined up to take over Northern Ireland meat firm Dunbia, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
It's understood the Waterford-based company is close to making an offer for the Co Tyrone firm, formerly known as Dungannon Meats.
Discussions between the two companies are thought to have been taking place for around six months.
But despite several industry insiders backing the claims, both companies declined to comment on the takeover.
Dawn Meats said its policy is "not to comment on market rumours or speculation," while a spokeswoman for Dunbia said the firm had "no comment to make".
Dunbia is run by brothers Jim and Jack Dobson and has annual sales of around £787m.
The firm employs nearly 4,000 people around the globe, including around 1,000 in Dungannon.
Last year the firm sold its pork business in Cullybackey, Co Antrim, to English-based Cranswick plc.
It's understood the latest development involves the rest of the business as insiders say the brothers may be seeking to sell the business to prepare for their retirement.
The Dobson brothers came in at 129th in this year's Sunday Times Rich List. They were reported to have a net worth of €104m (£90.6m). In its accounts for the year ending March 2016, Dunbia Group made a pre-tax profit of £7.2m.
However, this also included the pork processing business.
In the financial year 2015-16 the firm was also estimated to have £63.9m worth of assets.
Dawn Meats is part of Arrow Group, owned by the Queally brothers from Waterford, and their business partner Dan Browne. It is led by chief executive Niall Browne, Dan Browne's son.
The firm is known for brands such as Dawn Meats, Black Angus, Red Hereford, Charolais Gold, Nature's Meadow and Highlands Meats.
But a deal for Dunbia would not be the Irish meat firm's first UK acquisition.
In 2011, Dawn Meats took over Duerden Lindal Moor Beef Abattoir in England's Lake District, and three years later, bought the Jasper beef abattoir and boning facility in Cornwall.
In 2015, it took on a 49% stake in Elivia, a €1bn (£870m) turnover business and the second largest beef and veal processor in France. In 2012, the firm took over West Devon Meats, a beef and lamb abattoir in the south west of England.
Dawn Meats was established as a small family business in Co Waterford, Ireland in 1980, but today is one of the biggest names in British and Irish meat.
Food giant 2 Sisters, which is based in England, had previously shown interest in acquiring the red meat part of Dunbia, but its discussions with Dunbia never came to fruition.
Dawn Meats supplies a range of beef and lamb carcase and primal cuts, burger patties, added value and slow cooked products through sales offices and distribution partners in Europe and around the world.
The firm employs more than 3,300 people across its production, sales, marketing and distribution operation arms.
The group produces a range of food and beverage value-added products.
It also manufactures and distributes pet food, and is involved in property development.
In 2014, Dawn Meats was estimated to have a turnover of €1.1bn (£960m).