Belfast Telegraph

Hopes high for Tyrone plant despite owners in UK sell-off

By David Elliott

The Northern Ireland management of a Cookstown pork processor put up for sale by its Dutch owner are hopeful that a deal can be done within days to keep the keep the plant running as normal.

Eindhoven-based Vion Group announced plans yesterday to sell off its UK food business including the Cookstown plant which employs 760 people and makes sausages, bacon and cooked meats.

The Tyrone company was part of an Invest NI trade mission to China only last week and the agency told The Belfast Telegraph it had been in touch with Vion executives in Cookstown in light of plans to sell the site.

"Invest Northern Ireland has been in discussions with local management at Vion Foods in Cookstown who are optimistic that a deal could be done in days which would see a continuation of all current activities and an undertaking to deliver on its investment commitments," it said in a statement.

It's understood the Cookstown arm of Vion is profitable but its not clear whether a buyer is likely to swoop or if a management buyout is on the cards.

Vion itself said it is confident it will sell the UK-wide business which covers 38 sites and employs 13,000 people.

"We have already started detailed discussions with a number of interested parties, including management, regarding the acquisition of the various parts of the UK business. The level of interest has been strong and we hope to be in a position in the near future to give details about the progress which has been made.

"The sale process will be completed in a smooth and orderly fashion to ensure business continuity for our employees, agricultural and other suppliers and our customers."

In March this year Vion's Cookstown plant announced it was creating 164 new jobs after an £11.5m investment, much of which went to improving the technology at the site. Invest NI put £1m toward the investment.

The Ulster Farmers' Union said it had also been in touch with Vion and were hopeful a buyer could be found soon.

"Vion's announcement to sell all its pork, poultry and red meat businesses in the United Kingdom is disappointing but we are confident their profitability, including Cookstown, will attract a lot of interest and are hopeful that a buyer will come forward very soon," UFU pork and bacon chairman Ivor Fergusony said.