Belfast Telegraph

WD Meats to swallow up Ballymena rival's assets

By John Mulgrew

A Co Londonderry meat firm which supplies beef to McDonald's is buying the assets of a rival for an undisclosed sum, it can be revealed.

It's understood WD Meats in Coleraine is in the process of taking over property owned by Ballymena Meats, which is based in Pennybridge Industrial Estate outside the Co Antrim town.

Ballymena Meats specialises in the slaughter and wholesale of beef, and is also capable of processing pork and lamb.

It has an abattoir, as well as a large cold store, capable of holding around 2,000 tonnes of meat.

WD Meats and Ballymena Meats did not respond when contacted for comment.

Audrey Wales, mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said it was "liaising with Ballymena Meats on an ongoing basis, however, we will not be issuing further comment until the company has made its own statement".

WD Meats has been in business since 1979 and was founded by Francis Dillon. It's based at Lower Newmills Road in Coleraine, where it has a 100,000 sq ft plant on a 35-acre site, which deals with slaughter, boning, packaging and distribution.

The firm was formerly run as a limited company but in 2010 changed to an unlimited company.

In its last accounts as a limited company, WD Meats turned over £52m in the year ending January 2009.

The latest deal in the meat industry comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Co Tyrone giant Dunbia is on the market.

The Dungannon-based business - which employs close to 4,000 staff across a dozen sites - is also reported to be entering into a joint venture with 2 Sisters in England, with their red meat operations joining forces.

Its pork operation had been linked to a possible sale to Danish Crown or Cranswick.

And in the largest food firm deal to take place in Northern Ireland, chicken giant Moy Park was sold by Sao Paulo-based firm Marfrig to Brazilian firm JBS last year, in a deal worth £988m.

Economist John Simpson said that given the number of deals at the large end of the meat industry, smaller companies could also be acquiring new assets and parts of businesses.

"The future of the red meat industry, and white meat industry, could well be affected by Brexit. Are we going to have the same markets outside the UK?" he said.

"Are we going to be flooded with cheap meat imports? I think the important thing that the existence of the Common Agricultural Policy has tended to mean, is that our meat industry has been operating on a European basis.

"But we are likely to be more vulnerable as a standalone.

"Brexit has hoisted another question mark, and one which will hang around for three to five years.

"For the moment, there is no certainty and no outcome from the negotiations."

Belfast Telegraph