By Geoff Percival
Patrick Coveney plans to remain as chief executive of Greencore in the aftermath of the convenience food group’s exit from the US market.
Speaking after shareholders formally approved the $1.1bn (€950m) sale of Greencore’s entire US business, which should now be completed by the end of this month, Mr Coveney — who orchestrated the Dublin group’s American growth drive — said he is “happy” to keep leading the group and retains “the same enthusiasm” to grow the business as he had before the US sale.
He also said he would be “very surprised” if Greencore didn’t make more acquisitions to grow its UK business. But, he refuted claims that Greencore’s new ‘one market’ strategy could make it look more like a takeover target, rather than a buyer. He said the group is still seen as being one of the stronger long-term players in the UK convenience food market.
While the US sale was passed, nearly 20% of shareholders voted against the way the company intends to return some of the proceeds to investors. A near €580m special dividend is due to be paid in January, but many Irish shareholders are upset as the payments will incur income tax. Greencore said it will consult with shareholders and the way the money is paid could change.
Greencore shares were down by just over 1% yesterday. Analyst reaction was mixed to last month’s news of the group’s US exit, with one suggesting investors could be concerned over UK growth prospects. Another said the group could be ripe for a takeover with Mr Coveney potentially being replaced within 12 months.