Devenish Ltd made a loss of £14.2m (€16.6m) in the year to the end of May 2023, company accounts seen by the Irish Farmers Journal show.

Turnover during the 12 months had risen by 7.7% to £270m (€315.5m), but the company’s bottom line was hit by increased cost of sales, which jumped by almost 20% in the period.

The business clearly felt the effects of the huge rise in raw material costs, especially those related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine during the period covered by these accounts.

The high level of debt carried by the company also proved a burden during the year, with interest payments reaching £5.2m (€6.1m).

The majority of the debt is in the form of a loan from the European Investment Bank, which carries an interest rate of 6% (up from 4% the previous year), as well as an interest-in-kind accrual of 3% which is added to the net debt every six months.

Devenish also took an almost £4m impairment on the value of its fixed assets during the year, with the value of its land, buildings, plant and machinery, and office equipment all being reduced beyond the usual depreciation levels.

The directors of the company described the results as “disappointing”.


However, since the end of the last financial year in May of 2023, there have been several developments with the company, which will mean substantial changes both in the current financial year and for the future of the company.

The appointment of Tony McEntee as chief executive officer last year seems to have led to a major re-focusing among directors towards the company’s core business.

The sale of the research farm at Dowth, Co Meath, to the Irish State, which completed in December, both captured plenty of headlines in 2023 and meant that the company offloaded a significant cost-centre.

While the agreed sale price for Dowth has not been revealed, it was listed at €10m.

Transformative deal

In the last few days, Devenish has announced a much more significant deal – the sale of its North American business, Devenish Nutrition LLC to South Korean agricultural and biotechnical company Easy Bio Corporation. This sale will substantially reduce the size of the Devenish Group. The North American division accounted for over 40% of the group’s turnover and employees.

The sale included five manufacturing facilities in the USA and Mexico, and a further six research facilities which Devenish co-operated with a number of key customers in both countries. The sale also included exclusive rights to the Devenish brand in the USA, Canada and Mexico. Easy Bio said that Devenish Nutrition LLC will continue to operate with its current management team and employees.

According to a stock exchange listing from Easy Bio, the company paid just over 88bn Korean won (€61m) for Devenish Nutrition LLC. The amount was paid in cash. Easy Bio listed the total assets of Devenish’s North American operation at €57.1m and the total debt of the company at €19.9m. This means that in the wake of this sale, Devenish Group will reduce its headcount from 557 to close to 350, and will reduce the balance sheet by almost half. Devenish said that it intends to apply the proceeds of the deal to redeem debt and invest in its core activities, with an aim to expand activities in both its home and international markets.

Speaking after the announcement of the deal, McEntee said that: “Following this disposal, the group will have a sharper business focus and will capitalise on the sustainable growth potential presented by our operations and activities in our core markets of Ireland, [and] the UK along with our significant other international markets.”

That business focus will also be critical because of another move made by Devenish recently. The company raised £7.5m (€8.8m) through a private placement of shares, which was organised by Dublin-based Focus Capital. Those new shareholders, who were issued with preference shares, will look for management to work on getting them the best return on their capital.

According to the annual results, the moves have been undertaken to “tackle the challenges facing the group” and involve “elimination of non-commercial activities, disposal of surplus assets and right-sizing the balance sheet”, with the aim to “focus the energy of the business in profitably serving its core customer base.”

That new focus can also be seen in the disposal during the year of the investment in Sidai Africa Ltd. When that investment was launched in 2019 it was described as “part of Devenish’s ambitious long-term growth strategy in emerging markets”. Sidai is also backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Business managers use phrases like “retrenchment” and “right-sizing the balance sheet” as corporate-speak for “making the business smaller”.

There is no doubt that Devenish has become a much smaller company in the last year. While the sale of Devenish LLC will certainly have a major impact on the overall scale of the group – coming close to cutting it in half – there are also some points made in the annual report which indicate a complete move away from much of the general research work the company previously undertook.

In the directors’ report for 2022, under the section titled “Future Developments”, the company stated lofty goals such as the “One Health, From Soil to Society” strategy. This “focuses on optimising nutrient utilisation in soil, plant, animal, environmental and human health, as interlinked components in the food value chain” – adding that the directors believe the investment the group has made in research in this area over recent years will be a “positive differentiator”.

The whole section ran to almost 200 words and reflected the group’s focus on research. In this year’s report, the section titled “Future Developments” is one sentence long.

“The directors are committed to growing the business through a focus on core operations and commercialisation of the development projects.”

The “One Health, From Soil to Society” strategy gets no mention at all in the 2023 annual report.

The report indicates that the shift is already paying off. It says that the focus on the core business – developing and selling animal nutrition solutions – has resulted in “significantly improved financial performance throughout fiscal year 2024, with a return to profitability for the continuing business”.

To put it plainly, it seems that Devenish had spread itself too thin through both its expansions and its focus on research. The new management under Tony McEntee has come in with a focus on making money from its core business and shedding anything that does not directly form part of that core business. This has led to huge changes in the last year, but has also probably secured the future of Devenish as a feed supplier to its customers in the UK, Ireland and overseas.