The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney has said that he cannot get involved in the proposed tie-up between ABP and Slaney Foods.

Announced prior to Christmas the move by the ABP Food Group to acquire a 50% shareholding in Slaney Foods, marks a significant shift in the operating interests in the national kill.

Speaking in the Dail recently, the Minister said that there is a State body that has a legal obligation to assess these things properly and make informed choices.

“We will work with the system. If the Competition Authority asks for our opinion on anything we will obviously give full details of our views from a policy viewpoint.

However, he said there are ‘dangers’ with Ministers getting involved in trying to impact on mergers.

“We all call it the Competition Authority but it is now titled the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. It is a pretty robust organisation.

“I have already received letters from them warning me not to stray into price negotiation areas with the beef forum, for example. They are watching this sector pretty closely, so let us see what they have to say.

“My Department can provide statistics and details, but I do not think it is qualified to make judgment calls on competition issues.

“That is what the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is there for. If they ask us for information or a policy perspective, we will of course give it to them.

“I cannot be more open than that,” he said.

Investigation process

Minister Coveney said depending on the turnover of organisations involved in an acquisition or merger, either the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission or the EU Commission will conduct an examination to determine whether there will be any “substantial lessening of competition”.

As part of this process the examination of the proposed takeover will involve either a one or two-stage investigation by the relevant authorities, at the end of which the authorities may unconditionally clear the merger, approve the merger subject to remedies, or prohibit the merger if no adequate remedies to the competition concerns have been proposed by the merging parties.