Kerry Co-op has confirmed that it has today (Monday, November 14) received signatures from a group of shareholders seeking a special general meeting (SGM).

The group, who are concerned about a potential joint venture with Kerry Group, want to compel the co-op board to hold an emergency vote on a share redemption scheme.

Kerry Co-op is the largest shareholder in Kerry Group with an 11.4% stake in the company worth around €2 billion.

The group wants a conversion rate for their shares of one to 5.9 plc shares to be added to the co-op’s rulebook.

This would ringfence the majority of the co-op’s share capital and require the board to seek shareholder approval for any major investment.

In June, the co-op board had planned to put a resolution to shareholders to place the existing share redemption scheme into the co-op rulebook. However, following legal advice the board decided against this.

The chair of the Kerry Co-op board, Denis Carroll, said that the board will consider fresh legal advice on the matter at a scheduled meeting tomorrow.

He also said that the board will not stop any legitimate request for a SGM.

Fergus McCarthy, a milk supplier from east Limerick who is part of the shareholder group, told Agriland that 1,200 forms from shareholders were submitted this afternoon to Kerry Co-op secretary, Thomas Hunter McGowan.

Under the co-op rules, if 20% of the shareholders representing 20% of the shareholding within Kerry Co-op make a request for a SGM, then the board must adhere to this request.

However, without access to the Kerry Co-op share register, McCarthy is unsure if this criteria has been met.

If the threshold has been achieved the SGM will have to be called within 30 days, otherwise the shareholders themselves can convene the meeting.

Thomas Hunter McGowan confirmed to Agriland that he had received the documentation and work will now get underway on verifying the information.

In April 2021, talks between Kerry Co-op and Kerry Group on a potential dairy business deal were suspended after over 18 months of discussions.

The shareholders are concerned that co-op funds will be substantially reduced to pay for the joint venture while shareholders with no interest in milk processing will see their value in the co-op reduced.

“They are very legitimate concerns, but I have publicly stated as chairman, and it is the position of the board, that if we do decide to set up a joint venture with Kerry Group that we will certainly bring that back to the shareholders for their approval,” Denis Carroll said.