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Timber firm mulls putting down roots on the Continent

14/01/2019

Glennon Brothers, the largest timber provider in Ireland, is eyeing a move into mainland Europe as it carries out a strategic review of its operations.

Mike Glennon, the joint managing director, said it planned to double in size within the next six to seven years. The firm employs 460 people, including 185 in Ireland, and has annual sales of €130 million.

“We’re in the middle of a complete strategic review of the business. We’re looking at the potential of the various sites. We’re to double the size of the business, so we’re looking at how to fulfil that ambition,” he told The Times.

“We believe that it will come from a combination of strategic acquisitions and substantial capital development programmes. “We’re always on the lookout for acquisitions, both in the UK and we will look at Europe. We supply wood to France: we made history in 2009 by being the first homegrown company either in Ireland or the UK to send shipments of timber to France and we still have a small presence in the market.

“We’re looking at mainland Europe. Brexit or no Brexit, the UK is the biggest importer of wood in Europe, and that won’t change. I do believe that there are still opportunities in Ireland and in the UK market, but that is the natural way we will be headed and that’s the way our strategy is going to take us.

“For the growth and development of the business, you would have thought: we’ve developed in Ireland, we went to the UK. Down the road, the next obvious one for us to look at would be in the European context.”

Mr Glennon, whose brother Pat is the other co-managing director, said he was not sure exactly when the company would move into mainland Europe, and said that such a development could be several years away.

Glennon Brothers operates four timber processing facilities: two in Ireland, in Cork and Longford, and two in Scotland. The firm also has two timber frame manufacturing plants in Ireland and Scotland.

Mr Glennon said he expected there to be strong demand for his company’s products in Ireland because timber was a common component in virtually every house built in the country.

“In 2006, when Ireland was building 93,000 homes [a year], we were supplying over two thirds of our Irish output into the Irish market, and exporting a third. By 2009, we were exporting two thirds of our output,” he said.

“That shows that the key driver for our sector is housing. The catastrophic collapse of the Irish construction industry put pressure on anyone aligned to the industry. If you take last year, most commentators would say we built 18,000 houses [in 2018].

“Most commentators say that the right figure is 30,000, so the natural increase in house building in Ireland will help develop markets for our products,” he said.

Mr Glennon was speaking at the launch of Forest Industries Ireland, a new lobby group for the sector. The group said that activity in the industry, which directly employs 4,000 people as well as supporting a total of 12,000 jobs, is likely to increase significantly in the period to 2035.

It predicted that the industry’s turnover would rise from a combined €800 million to €1.6 billion, boosted by the fact that many trees which were planted decades ago are due to reach maturity in the coming years.

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