Belfast Telegraph

Moy Park sale by Brazilian owners to cut debt a logical decision, insists economist

By John Mulgrew

Invest NI has said it will not get involved in the selling off of poultry giant Moy Park while one economist says the sale is the “logical decision” for its owners.

Moy Park, which has its headquarters in Craigavon, employs 6,300 staff in Northern Ireland alone. It’s being sold by Brazilian-based JBS, just two years after it bought the business for $1.5bn (£945m).

Economist John Simpson said that a future Economy Minister “should organise a professional investigation” and meet those involved in the sale as well as “arrange for careful monitoring to be carried out by Invest NI”.

But the economic development agency said it will not intervene as it is a “commercial process”. Invest NI has offered Moy Park around £14m in assistance over the last five years.

And of that, the company has “drawn down” £9.5m.

Economist Andrew Webb of Webb Advisory said the decision by JBS to sell Moy Park, given the Brazilian firm’s “debt pile”, would “seem like a logical decision”.

“It would be more concerning if there was a business performance issue with the local operation but the only evidence I see is that the Northern Ireland operation is performing exceptionally well,” he said.

“I have no doubt that some will make a link between this and Brexit given Brexit’s status as the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems — to paraphrase Homer Simpson — but I won’t. Moy Park’s parent company needs to reduce its debt pile, and selling Moy Park will go some way to doing that. It seems like a logical decision. I would expect business as usual.”

One industry insider said as a “well-run organisation I’d be surprised if the new buyer made many changes”.

He added: “I think JBS is selling them because they need the money.”

Moy Park, now one of the UK’s top 10 food firms, has a workforce of 12,000 across Europe.

With Brexit around the corner, there are concerns about what impact there could be on the workforce here, and one union official says it is “worrying”.

Unite regional officer Sean McKeever has said the sale “casts a shadow over its future at a time when it already faces extensive uncertainties as a result of Brexit”.

Chief executive of Moy Park, Janet McCollum, said it is a “successful and growing food business with a solid financial standing”. She added: “I have no doubt that our success is due to the great strengths of this business — our exceptional people, innovation and performance.”

Belfast Telegraph