Kerry alliance go on the offensive at Limerick shareholders meeting

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan


Kerry alliance go on the offensive at Limerick shareholders meeting

The meeting was held at the South Court Hotel

THERE were angry scenes at a meeting of Kerry Co-op shareholders in the South Court Hotel on Monday night.

Some 400 attended and it went on for over three hours. But amid all the shouting the big question is what's next? 

Kerry Co-op Shareholders Alliance are calling for the full liquidation of their shares. Alliance members want to sell their remaining 13.7% stake (€2.2bn) in Kerry Group Plc and share the dividends, worth on average €165,000, amongst co-op shareholders.  There are believed to be around 2,500 shareholders from County Limerick. They include current milk suppliers and those who for a variety of reasons, including retirement, have stopped supplying milk.

Kerry Co-op have recently sent its members an information pack about a voluntary cash for shares scheme. The board has approved and recommended the equity redemption scheme for members which would offer shareholders the opportunity to sell some or all of their shares.

Members can avail of the offer until June 5 but the scheme will have to be approved at Kerry Co-op's upcoming AGM on June 19.

Dave Scannell, of Kerry Co-op Shareholders Alliance, said out of the 400 in attendance not one of them spoke positively about the cash for shares” scheme being offered.

“It was abundantly clear to anyone at the meeting that the relationship between the shareholders and Kerry Co-op chairman Mundy Hayes has broken down and that there is no support for the ‘cash for shares’ scheme being proposed. The entire tone of the meeting was one of anger that the shareholders felt over the board ever proposing a scheme which would lead to such outlandishly penal tax rates.

“The point was made over and over again that shareholders were not prepared to pay income tax on their shares, the scheme being proposed is of absolutely no use to the vast majority of shareholders. The topic of liquidation was brought up repeatedly at the meeting.  This was clearly shareholders favoured way of accessing their shares due to its tax efficiency and ease of doing so,” said Mr Scannell,  a dairy farmer with a farm in Listowel and in Ardagh.

There was no reply to an email from the Limerick Leader to Kerry Co-op asking for their view of how the meeting went. However, secretary Thomas Hunter McGowan has argued that “no two people have the same tax situation”.

“This scheme will be better for those on the lower tax rate,” he said. Mr Hunter McGowan has also said the shares are locked in and there was no other option for discharging them except via the proposed scheme.

One County Limerick farmer who was at the meeting got in touch with Farm Leader to give his viewpoint.

“As a Kerry milk supplier and shareholder sitting at my kitchen table this Wednesday morning after Monday night’s meeting in Limerick I can't help but wonder what the two gentleman from Kerry PLC must have been saying to each other on their way home. “It was probably something to the effect of "I think that went well" or "we got off lightly there"  but they probably missed the best part of the night as the circus was only beginning. At no point of the evening had we a balanced view. Everyone who contributed had a valid point but flaws could be seen in all as the shouting match continued from the floor to the top table and vice versa.

“I wonder would we be having this conversation at all if the shares were only €10 instead of €100 at which point we would be discussing what a co-op was originally designed for? It is to help its members get the best possible price for their products and provide them with a good service and benefit its members, which I have not seen for a long time.

“So the question I find myself asking is has our co-op run its course as it no longer seems to serve its members, or do we continue to fight amongst ourselves but then again what would I know – I'm only a farmer just like the members of our board,” he wrote.