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Smurfit 'insulated' from hard Brexit but still wants to see deal

Packaging giant Smurfit Kappa has said its UK businesses, including a Co Armagh factory for corrugated packaging, is largely insulated from the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

But the firm is keen to see a deal between the UK and the EU, according to chief financial officer Ken Bowles.

Smurfit's UK operations, including the factory in Lurgan, account for up to €800m (£701m) of its annual €8.9bn (£7.8bn) in revenue.

Mr Bowles said the company had seen no sign of its customers engaging in stockpiling in the run-up to the March 29 withdrawal date.

Chief executive Tony Smurfit said he took part in a conference call with Theresa May and she appeared to be intent on steering clear of a hard Brexit.

"I think she's determined to try and avoid a no-deal Brexit if she can because she recognises, from talking to business, that this could be very damaging for the UK economy and, ergo, jobs. Politically, (it) would be very bad for her," he told Reuters.

But Mr Bowles said the impact of no deal on his company, which also has two paper mills and other plants in the UK, would be limited and that the business had not engaged in any specific preparations.

"It's quite insulated," said Mr Bowles of the UK business. "What we make in the UK in terms of paper, we generally sell in the UK in terms of boxes.

"We bring in some very specific paper, but in reality it operates as an island economy, so tariffs wouldn't necessarily be an impact on our UK business.

"In our role as a supply chain partner to our customers, we're not necessarily seeing them make any shift in terms of stockpiling in advance of anything.

"We all hope a deal gets done and that both parties have a willingness not to have some sort of hard exit, but every day that passes without a deal is another day closer to that."

Belfast Telegraph