ABP Food Group has sold Silvercrest – the frozen burger plant that produced the 29.1% horse Tesco burger – to Kepak Group, and announced its exit from the Irish frozen burger market.

Silvercrest, which is based in Ballybay, Co Monaghan, has been shut since 16 January, with its 122 staff kept on at full pay while ABP worked out what to do with the plant. They are being transferred to Kepak as part of the deal.

Financial details have not been disclosed. The deal remains subject to approval from competition authorities.

ABP CEO Paul Finnerty said the company had decided to exit the frozen burger market in Ireland and focus on its fresh meat business instead. “Our decision to sell the Ballybay facility allows the group to move forward positively with our core chilled beef business and other developing businesses.”

Finnerty added although there had been a problem with horsemeat in its frozen operations, ABP’s chilled beef business had not been affected. “Irish beef is held in the highest regard internationally and, as Europe’s largest beef exporter, ABP will continue to invest in expanding and developing this and other businesses within the group,” he said.

Although ABP will no longer produce frozen burgers in Ireland, it will continue to make frozen meat products – including burgers – at its Dalepak plant in Yorkshire.

Silvercrest was part of ABP’s convenience foods division, which was disbanded in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. The plant was dropped as a supplier by a string of high-profile customers, including Tesco, Burger King and The Co-operative Group, after it emerged it had used Polish meat in products meant to contain only British and Irish beef.

Kepak Group supplies fresh and frozen meat products, and also owns the Rustlers and Feasters brands of microwavable burgers. Feasters was bought by Kepak from ABP in February 2012.

The company said the acquisition of Silvercrest would fit in well with its burger and convenience foods strategy, which was focused on developing sales in EU retailers and foodservice markets. MD John Horgan added: “We look forward, subject to Competition Authority approval, to working with the staff at the Ballybay plant and to returning the facility to full production in the coming months”.

Irish agriculture minister Simon Coveney welcomed the deal and highlighted ABP’s keeping its staff on full pay over the past three months. “While this is a commercial arrangement between ABP and Kepak, I would like in particular to acknowledge ABP’s commitment to the staff at the plant during the past months,” he said. “The announcement today is good news for the companies concerned and for the Irish food industry generally.  This is also very good news for the employees at the Silvercrest plant and local economy at Ballybay, Co Monaghan.”