After experiencing a decline in turnover in the previous two years, and an operating loss in 2020, Devenish (NI) Ltd returned to profitable growth in the 12 months to 31 May 2022, its latest accounts show.

The animal feed company, headquartered in Belfast, has a number of subsidiaries operating across the UK and Ireland, as well as sites in Mexico, Turkey, Uganda and the USA.

The ultimate controlling party is Owen Brennan, who led a team to acquire Devenish in 1997.

To 31 May 2022, turnover at Devenish hit £250.8m, up 15.9% on the previous year, with operating profit jumping over 50% to total £9.5m. That left operating profit margin at 3.8%, in line with typical margins within the agri-food sector. Employee numbers in 2022 stood at 563.

Loan and insurance

The report to accompany the accounts noted that improved performance in 2022 was influenced by a loan received in the North American business to help with the impact of COVID-19, and the final tranche of insurance money relating to a fire at its Belfast site in 2019.

Both acted to offset increasing raw material and production costs, and also the loss of business that resulted from the sale of Hi Peak Feeds Ltd, an organic feed mill in Sheffield, acquired by Noble Foods in February 2022.

Hi Peak Feeds was bought by Devenish in 2013 and was generating over £20m of turnover with the group.

That sale has added some cash into the business, and alongside higher value of stocks in 2022, has helped increase net assets to £28m. However, loans and other bank borrowings within Devenish still remain high, at over £53m.

In April 2022 the company put its 552ac research farm at Dowth, Co Meath, on the market for €10m.

The last financial year has also brought a lot of flux within the Devenish board, with eight directors resigning, including its former CEO, Richard Kennedy.

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