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Barr Ellison Solicitors – commercial property
25 June, 2007 - 15:27 By Staff Reporter

Bernard Matthews bets the farm

Norfolk turkey baron, Bernard Matthews has sought a refinancing deal from the Bank of Ireland to stem the tide of virulent losses from his poultry empire.

Predictions have put the total amount of Matthews' personal fortune which could be gobbled up by the avian flu outbreak at Matthews' Holton farm at over £70m.

A refinance deal with Bank of Ireland subsidiary, Burdale will see the future of the business secured against some of the company's 56 farms, including turkey stocks .

Following the discovery of H5N1-infected birds in February, alleged to have been imported from one of the firm's Hungarian farms, UK turkey sales have plummeted by 40 per cent with recent figures supplied by the Norfolk company suggesting a 30 per cent deficit on the previous year.

The news comes hot on the heels of reports of staff cruelty at the company's farm in Wreningham, where a contract worker was captured on film 'playing football' with turkeys. Matthews is building a history of animal rights infringements, as two workers were prosecuted last year for 'playing baseball' with company birds.

After 160k birds were culled to prevent a mass outbreak of the Asian virus, Defra made a £600k compensation payment to the firm, amid mass criticism from MPs, despite the estimated £20m losses already made by the company as a result of lost sales and extra costs.

Matthews cultivated the company from 20 eggs and a second-hand incubator into a multinational giant, which employs over 6k people worldwide and produced 7m turkeys and turned over £400m last year.

BW understands that staff at Bernard Matthews have been consulted by management over redundancies, thought to be around 100, and pay and recruitment at the firm have been temporarily pegged while finances are restructured.

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