ONE of Northern Ireland’s leading farmer-owned businesses has announced changes to its structure which will bring significant benefits to trading shareholders.
The Annual General Meeting of AI Services, held recently, included a report on a review of the company’s share register, including a bonus share issue to trading members. The company, which was established 34 years ago when the Department of Agriculture disengaged from provision of artificial insemination services to the Province’s herdowners, is owned by farmers and farmer-owned organisations.
According to Robin Irvine, the current Board Chairman, the reduction in the number of dairy herds since the company was established and the increasing age profile of farmers has meant that many of the original shareholders are no longer in business.
Following a circulation of non-trading members, the company offered to repay the original share capital and any accrued dividends. This produced a good response and the shares which have been redeemed have now been distributed between those shareholders actively trading with the company.
The directors have confirmed that the company’s share register will remain open, and trading herdowners may apply to become members by purchasing shares in the business. All members are allocated the same number of shares, each worth £1, and they do not rise or fall in value, nor can they be traded on the open market. If a member ceases to trade, they can be redeemed at par value by the company or transferred to a new herd owner with the approval of the company.
Trading members will receive an annual dividend on the shares held and will also benefit from a trading rebate based on their purchases from the company.
Shareholders attending the AGM heard that AI Services had enjoyed another very successful year across its core AI business in Northern Ireland, alongside the provision of support services to CAFRE and its majority shareholding in the Eurogene business in the Republic of Ireland making significant contributions to the bottom line.
Reporting on the financial performance, Dr Sam Campbell, CEO, said the company balance sheet was very strong and profitability was continuing the steady growth of recent years. The strategy of spreading the group overheads over three distinct business activities was proving successful with the core animal breeding business and the provision of rural development and knowledge transfer programmes in Northern Ireland making significant contributions. Eurogene continues to perform strongly in the Republic of Ireland and had returned a major growth in turnover and profitability in the year.
Plans are well advanced for a major investment at the AI Services headquarters at Ballycraigy with the old bull pens being replaced with a modern new stud facility. Investment has also been made in Eurogene with the purchase of office premises in Cahir, County Tipperary, and in the ongoing development of the Irish young sire programme based on contract mating to produce the elite dairy sires of the future.
“With the population of dairy cows on the island of Ireland now exceeding that of Great Britain, AI Services is well placed to meet the growing demand for quality genetics and new breeding technologies,” said Sam.
Referring to his planned retirement from the business later this year, he commented that this would be his last report to an Annual General Meeting and he thanked the chairmen, directors and colleagues for their friendship and support.
“AI Services has been my work, my hobby and my family for over 22 years and I wish the company every success in the years ahead,” said Sam.
The Chairman concluded the meeting with a warm tribute to the company’s Chief Executive.
“Sam’s contribution to the development of this business over the last two decades has been immense.
“He has led the company into new areas of business with the introduction of the farm facilitator network delivering benchmarking services, farm business development groups and educational programmes on behalf of CAFRE. The development of Eurogene into the major supplier of dairy genetics in the South of Ireland has been a remarkable success story built on his hard work and commitment. The board greatly appreciate Sam’s vision and contribution to the business over the last two decades and we are now looking to the future, with a recruitment process underway to appoint a successor to take the company forward following Sam’s retirement.”
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