Dublin based convenience food group Greencore is amending the terms of the return of over £500 million to shareholders following the recent sale of its US operations.

The company generated $1.1 billion (£863m) from the sale. It had initially intended to return £509m of that to shareholders by way of a special dividend. However, some shareholders were reported to be concerned about the tax implications of that.

Greencore CEO Patrick Coveney confirmed that it had altered the structure of this to give shareholders a choice in how they wish to receive the proceeds.

"After the recent EGM, we spoke to around 70% of shareholders and although they were supportive of the sale and the idea of paying back the proceeds of the sale, they wanted a choice as to whether or not to participate in the dividend payment.


"We've changed from paying a special dividend of 72p per share to instead setting up a tender offer where shareholders where shareholders will have the option of selling their shares up to a value of £509m. We'll still return the capital, but they'll have the choice in whether to participate or not," he explained.

The company abandoned its US operations just two years after it invested heavily in an effort to quadruple sales there. Mr Coveney rejected suggestions that the US operations had been undervalued in the sale.

"We got an absolutely compelling financial offer which fully valued the business and its prospects over the next five years. It wasn't an easy decision but the right thing to do for shareholders was to accept."

"We got between 13.5 and 14.5 time profit which, for a business of this type, would be well above what they would sell at. The price we got was excellent," he said.

On Brexit, Patrick Coveney said the company's concerns were "general rather than specific."

"Everything we sell we make in the UK. The vast majority of ingredients - around 80% - are sourced here. We'll be able to work through any scenario. Clearly we have a preference for an orderly withdrawal but we're planning for every scenario. It's difficult to know where it will end politically," he added.

Greencore today reported higher profits and revenues for the year to September 28 after what it called a year of "significant change" for the company.

Greencore said its profit before tax rose by 12.7% to £17.8m from £15.8m, while revenues for the year grew by 4.2% to £1.498 billion from £1.438 billion the same time last year. 

Greencore's board of directors has recommended a final dividend of 3.37 pence per share. 

It said this will result in a total dividend for the year of 5.57 pence per share, up from 5.47 pence per share last year.

Its adjusted earnings per share for the full year came in at 15.1 pence,  in line with its guidance of 14.7 to 15.7 pence and down slightly on last year.

The company said it delivered good underlying growth in the UK, with favourable consumer and retailer trends helping drive our core food to go business. 

"We will now focus all of our attention and resources on the significant growth opportunities that we see in the UK, both organic and inorganic," the company's chief executive Patrick Coveney said. 

"Despite the short-term uncertainties of Brexit, our scale, depth and expertise in attractive and structurally growing food categories mean that we are confident in the future growth prospects for Greencore," he added.