The purchase this week, for an undisclosed sum, will result in Moy Park acquiring O'Kane's Ballymena site, which includes feed milling facilities. It will produce a combined business employing 8,500 people, processing 200 million chickens and 1.5 million turkeys per year.
Moy Park, which is owned by Brazilian poultry giant Marfrig, said the purchase of the £140m-turnover company would enable it to bolster its supply base and accelerate its market growth. "By bringing the resources and expertise of Moy Park and O'Kane Poultry together we are creating a business with the scale and sustainability of supply needed to meet the very significant growth opportunities that exist across Europe," said CEO Nigel Dunlop.
Although Moy Park did not currently have a foothold in turkey meat processing, the number of customer requests it received showed there was demand, Dunlop claimed.
"We will initially try and develop the already strong business that O'Kane has and then we'll take stock of what the opportunities and demands are."
The deal is still subject to due diligence and regulatory approval, but Dunlop played down fears it could be scuppered by competition concerns over two of Northern Ireland's biggest processors merging. "We're based in Northern Ireland, but our core market is very much in the UK."
It was a positive development, said Billy O'Kane, chairman of O'Kane Poultry. "As part of the larger Moy Park organisation, the future of the producers who supply O'Kane Poultry is assured, as is Ballymena's position as a major centre of employment for the Northern Ireland poultry industry."
Moy Park's announcement that it is to enter the market for turkey meat follows Bernard Matthews' acquisition earlier this month of free-range and speciality turkey supplier Lincs Turkeys.