Two major meat processing companies, Dawn Meats and Dunbia, are to combine their operations in Ireland and the UK, subject to regulatory approval. In total, the combined operation will be able to process 900,000 cattle and 2.6 million sheep annually.

Dawn Meats, based in Ireland, and Dunbia with its headquarters in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, have agreed a strategic partnership to create a joint venture business, majority owned by Dawn, which combines the UK operations of both businesses. At the same time, Dawn will acquire Dunbia’s operations in the Republic of Ireland. There has been speculation about Dawn Meats making a bid for Dunbia for some months, but with little information available from the two privately held businesses.

The UK JV, which will trade as Dunbia, will deliver enhanced scale and market presence to benefit farmer suppliers and wholesale and food service customers, says the company. It will slaughter and process beef and lamb at 15 facilities across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Chief executive will be current Dunbia CEO Jim Dobson OBE, with Dawn Meats chief executive Niall as chairman. It will be run from Dunbia’s Dungannon HQ.

In Ireland, Dawn Meats will acquire two Dunbia facilities – an abattoir in Slane and a boning hall in Kilbeggan, bringing its total there to nine sites, of which five are abattoirs.

Dunbia – originally Dungannon Meats – originated as a retail butchery business in 1976 and has grown to an £800m turnover. Dawn Meats was founded in 1980, and now has annual revenues exceeding £1 billion.

“We are both family businesses with a deep connection to farming and a culture and business ethos that is centred on quality and sustainability,” comments Mr Browne. “Given the uncertainty posed by Brexit, this partnership should further underpin the competiveness of both operations to the benefit of all stakeholders in the UK, Ireland and across Europe.

“We are very excited about the future of both companies and the opportunities that this transaction will bring for our staff, customers and suppliers. In our key operating markets we will be involved in three leading national businesses with Dawn Meats in Ireland; Dunbia in the UK; and Elivia, the second largest beef processor in France, as a JV with our co-operative partner Terrena.”

For Dunbia, chief executive Jim Dobson adds: “This is the right strategic partnership for Dunbia’s staff and customers, and sees us joining with a company with a shared heritage of excellence in the production of premium beef and lamb products. The new UK joint venture confirms our future as a leading supplier in the UK market. In a consolidating industry this deal makes strategic sense for both companies, our customers and our farmer suppliers.”