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APRIL 2018 Price £2.30 (¤2.60)

Shaping the future PwC and the next generation who are helping to build and grow business UB 200

A list of some of NI’s top medium-sized firms

MICHELIN

The huge plan to breathe new life into the site


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Contents 8 News

41 SME & Family Business

92 The Chairman

The latest news and exclusives from the world of Northern Ireland business and beyond

John Simpson takes an indepth look at some of Northern Ireland’s top local firms

It’s been another busy month about town from black ties to restaurant openings

16 Cover Story

53 Business Start-ups

94 Technology

We speak to two top talents from PwC about how it is helping shape business

How does a firm get off the ground in NI? We take a look at some of those helping out

Expert Adrian Weckler gets his hands on the latest phone to take on the mighty Apple

20 In Focus

65 Branding & Marketing

96 Travel

We get the lowdown on plans to turn the former Michelin site into a manufacturing hub

From Ikea to Boojum, we take a look at how to build a brand into a high street icon

New York isn’t just about seeing the sights but also boasts an amazing food scene

25 UB 200

88 Photocall

98 My Day

We profile numbers 101-300 in the list of Northern Ireland’s biggest companies

There’s been plenty happening across the province over the last few weeks...

We find out how Stephen Kelly, chief of Manufacturing NI spends his day

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41

92 53

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EDITOR’S COMMENT

A welcome and an intro from the new kid on the block

W

elcome to the April edition of Ulster Business. Some of you may be wondering who the chap on the right is.

I’ve just taken over as editor of this fine publication - replacing the dapper David Elliott after several stellar years at the helm of this top Northern Ireland business magazine. Some of you may be familiar with me already, following a raft of happy years working alongside Margaret Canning on the Belfast Telegraph business desk.

This year’s UB 200 is essentially a snapshot of the next swathe of Northern Ireland’s top firms, listed in order of turnover, following on from the Top 100. Combined, companies boasted turnover of more than £9.1bn. Total equity of the UB 200 this year was £2,868m, a favourable increase on last year’s total. In the space of just one year, according to the data pulled from Companies House, the benchmark to reach the UB 200 has risen from £21.4m to £27.9m.

I’ve already been welcomed into the Ulster Business team with open arms, and I’m looking forward to putting a little bit of the Mulgrew stamp on things, making new relationships, and strengthening existing connections.

As ever, the list includes some of Northern Ireland’s best known manufacturers, construction firms, agri-food businesses and companies from across the services sector and beyond.

Business news and business reporting has never been more important in the current media landscape, with Brexit evercloser and a political impasse which looks unlikely to unravel itself any time soon.

This growth among some of our top family-run companies is even more impressive, given that Northern Ireland has been running on fumes without a devolved government, for more than a year.

But despite this, business keeps on going, regardless.

And with that, I hope you enjoy this edition. ■

There’s a lot in this month’s issue, from hard exclusive news, plans to revamp the former Michelin site, to our latest UB 200 list.

John Mulgrew

Publisher Ulster Business c/o Independent News & Media Ltd Belfast Telegraph House 33 Clarendon Road, Clarendon Dock Belfast BT1 3BG

Editor John Mulgrew

Production Manager Irene Fitzsimmons

Manager Sonia Armstrong

Graphic Design INM Design Studio

Deputy Manager Sylvie Brando

Cover photo William Cherry/Press Eye Photography

Sales Executive Sarah-Ann Gamble

Contact: 028 90 264260 www.ulsterbusiness.com

Printer W&G Baird Greystone Press, Caulside Drive, Antrim BT41 2RS www.wgbaird.com

Independent News & Media Ltd © 2018. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of Independent News & Media Ltd.

APRIL 2018

Free to download. Free to read. ulsterbusiness/app 7


NEWS

A month in numbers

An earlier artist’s impression of what the John Lewis store at Sprucefield could look like

1 The percentage Northern Ireland’s economy is expected to grow in 2018, according to PwC. The company also predicts that next year, the province’s growth is expected to pick up only slightly to reach 1.1%.

140 The number of jobs forecourt giant Maxol Oil has said a proposed motorway service station in Newry would create. It said it would bring 80 jobs during construction phase and 60 fulltime retail jobs when completed.

Fresh plans for new Sprucefield development revealed EXCLUSIVE By John Mulgrew

F

resh early plans are now under way to develop the Sprucefield site outside Lisburn which could attract long-awaited retail giant John Lewis, Ulster Business can reveal.

£2.2m What the old Nambarrie Tea warehouse in Belfast city centre has gone on the market for. The site comes with full planning permission for a residential development and is being sold by property agents Lambert Smith Hampton.

The site has long been linked to John Lewis, but has undergone years of hold-ups and legal challenges. But it's now understood that an early preapplication discussion (PAD) has taken place between planners and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council ahead of a full planning application for an ambitious mixed-use scheme. It's understood early discussions first took place late last year. The scheme has been mired in a range of issues for more than a decade.

470

That included a legal challenge and issues around developing such large-scale out-of-town parks instead of drawing footfall to urban areas.

The number of lodges being built by Limavady manufacturing firm FastHouse at Center Parcs in Longford. The firm has commenced work on the 10-month build programme at the 400-acre Longford Forest site in Ballymahon, and it is set to open in 2019.

The latest incarnation of the proposed scheme was also briefly raised during a predetermination hearing for the first phase of the £400m Royal Exchange development in Belfast city centre.

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During the meeting, one planning consultant said that the Sprucefield site was the “subject of a new application... currently in the PAD process”. He described Royal Exchange as Belfast's defence against Sprucefield. A spokesman for owners Intu, told Ulster Business: “We can confirm that we are looking at options to improve Sprucefield Park. “Our focus is on creating an improved retail location, creating new jobs whilst helping to support the local economy. We will provide further details when we are able.” A spokeswoman for Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council said it is “unable to comment” on the inquiry “due to the required confidentiality of documentation”. Asked about the plans, John Lewis said it doesn't comment on speculation. Meanwhile, the first phase for the Royal Exchange scheme has been given the green light by Belfast City Council's planning committee. And a high-profile retailer is poised to take on a six-storey retail site as part of the plans, it's been claimed.


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B&Q vacant Belfast site in revamp By John Mulgrew

A brochure says that “the mix of retail and showroom uses, together with the accessibility is one of” the area's biggest strengths.

What the new Range store could look like

T

he former B&Q store in Belfast could be transformed into a shopping hub amid new plans which have already attracted one retailer, Ulster Business can reveal.

It sells goods ranging from homeware and arts and crafts to plants.

The huge Boucher Road had been sitting vacant for some time, after the DIY giant announced it was cutting its store network in Northern Ireland by half, with the loss of around 300 jobs.

Now, commercial property agents TDK are advertising up to 48,740 sq ft of retail warehouse space at the site, with home and garden retailer The Range taking 65,000 sq ft. That's subject to planning permission.

Since last year, the team behind the T13 project at the Titanic Quarter - a former ship-building warehouse - have been using the site as a leisure and creative hub.

Plans show the huge building broken down into a number of separate retailer units – the larger of which would be The Range.

It's also hosted a fanzone for Northern Ireland football supporters during the World Cup qualifiers last year.

The Range already operates stores in Ballymena and Londonderry. It's since opened up at Connswater in east Belfast.

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In 2015, B&Q revealed it was cutting back on its store numbers across the UK. That includes around 60 locations. Parent firm Kingfisher is undergoing an overhaul and has warned over a cautious outlook in the UK Chief executive Veronique Laury said in August last year that she remains "cautious" on the economic outlook, with the firm having previously flagged Brexit as creating uncertainty in the market. As part of Ms Laury's revival, she is aiming to boost profits by £500m a year by 2021.

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09:47


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01/02/2018 09:47

Quotes of the month “Agreeing transition is a critical milestone that will provide many hundreds of businesses with the confidence to put their contingency planning on hold and keep investing in the UK.” CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn speaking following some form of agreement of a transition deal between the UK and the EU.

Pure Fitout’s work on the new House Bar, Belfast

Fit-out firm lands new Dublin deal

A

Northern Ireland fit-out firm is targeting London and Scotland after working on some of the most fashionable night-spots in Dublin. Pure Fitout, based in Kennedy Way in Belfast, is working on the refurbishment of private members’ club Residence at St Stephen’s Green as well as the new Devlin hotel in Ranelagh.

“It is bad that we haven’t got the Assembly in place at Stormont, particularly in the one of the most challenging times in Northern Ireland’s history...” Belfast-born director general of the IoD, Stephen Martin, speaking about the lack of devolved government impacting on business.

Much of its work in the Republic is carried out for key client the Press Up Group, and it can also list chains such as Mexican food business Boojum and fast-food joint Five Guys as customers. In Belfast, it recently worked on the fit-out of House Belfast, the upmarket venue at the former Madison’s Hotel on Botanic Avenue. And the firm reported a turnover of £9.7m despite having been trading just two-and-ahalf years.

“While Northern Ireland is moving back towards a position where there will be growth in real wages, that is wages adjusted for inflation, any substantial growth in real living standards is still some way off...” Esmond Birnie of Ulster University Economic Policy Centre on consumer price inflation easing to 2.7%.

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“By December 2015, we’d done a few jobs in Belfast and a few jobs in Dublin and those jobs set us up fairly well. Those jobs were finished to quite a high standard,” said Pure Fitout managing director, Ronan Higham. The Pure Fitout team has now grown to nearly 50 employees but originally there was a “pretty tight” team of just three. And Mr Higham has plans to double the workforce given the success of recent negotiations beyond the island of Ireland, in London and Scotland.

“We always have plans to grow. We are a forward-thinking company and we’re going to keep growing,” he said. Speaking about future projects, Mr Higham said he will roll out more Five Guys and Boojum fit-outs as well as completing more projects for NolaClan, the owners of House Belfast. “We’ve kept those clients because of the good quality of our work, but also due to the good relationships we’ve developed with Press Up, Boojum and Five Guys. We’re pretty can-do people — if there’s a problem, we’ll just get around it and find a solution.” Mr Higham worked for another fit-out firm previously, leaving in June 2015 to focus on setting up Pure Fitout. An employee with the company at the time organised an introduction with Belfast brothers David and Andrew Maxwell, who had bought Boojum earlier that year. “We got talking one day over a coffee and they came to us two weeks later with a set of drawings. “They asked could we price it and we did, so they asked us how quickly we could start. We started about a week later,” said Mr Higham. “It was a pretty rapid turnaround but it’s always like that with a fitting. “A lot of clients ring you on a Friday and hope that you will start on the Monday.” It was the first Five Guys project, in Victoria Square in Belfast, that helped catapult the team to its success.


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NI employment level on rise By John Mulgrew

employment of males, as of December 2017, has returned to its pre-downturn (2008) peak levels”.

T

he labour market in Northern Ireland is continuing to improve as the number of people in work has increased, according to fresh official figures. The latest Labour Force Survey shows that the unemployment rate for the period November 2017 to January 2018 was 3.2% - the joint lowest rate on record.

And the number of those claiming unemployment benefits fell by 100 in February, dropping to 28,700. Dr Esmond Birnie

Meanwhile, the overall number of people in work increased to 69.8%, over the quarter.

“There are some good results but, just as we should not confuse a single day of good weather with spring, there are grounds for caution,” according to Dr Esmond Birnie of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre.

The data from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) shows job growth figures are similarly up-beat.

Northern Ireland’s economic inactivity rate remains close to 28%, with a gap relative to the UK average of about 7%.

According to the quarterly employment survey, in Mr Mark Magill, senior economist at the the year to December 2017 the total number of Economic Policy Centre, said: “One of the employees grew by 15,090. positives in this data is that total full-time

Across the UK as a whole, the number of people in work has reached a record high, while earnings have "nudged up" although still growing more slowly than prices. Employment increased by 168,000 in the quarter to January to 32.2 million, the highest figure since records began in 1971, giving a joint record rate of 75.3%. Despite the increase, there was a rise of 24,000 in unemployment, to 1.45 million, following a similar jump in the previous quarter.

How to handle employee data under GDPR NI employers should reassess how they handle employee data in order to avoid risk when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force next month. Breaching the obligations set down by the new regulation, could leave employers facing a hefty fine (the maximum penalty under the GDPR is €20 million or 4% of an organisation’s worldwide annual turnover). Those found in breach of the regulation may also be subject to private compensation claims. The implications of the new regulation will be felt throughout an organisation, not least in the HR department. Below are some tips from HR Team Director Breda Cullen on handling employee data in order to avoid risk under the GDPR. Be informed of changes to how consent to process employee data is obtained.

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Know that there will be more focus on the legal basis for processing such data. Adhere to new recording obligations for employers to document ongoing compliance. Ensure senior management/board members are fully aware of the risks of being found in breach of GDPR. Review all data processing methods in your organisation’s employment lifecycle to identify potential risk areas. Consider appointing a suitably skilled compliance officer or team to develop, deliver and oversee a GDPR compliance plan for staff to adhere to. Seek expert assistance on how to handle employee data.

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Trump making UK investment 'very challenging' John Dickerman

far down the track that it's now merely a dot in the distance, Mr Dickerman said it provides a problem for inward investment. “I think any time there is uncertainty with tax regimes, it's a problem for investment.” Mr Dickerman has been with the CBI for six years, and is now working under his second US administration.

Donald Trump

By John Mulgrew

D

onald Trump's administration is making Northern Ireland and UK investment “very challenging” in an increasingly “negative” business environment, it's been claimed. John Dickerman's job has certainly become more challenging in the last year of so. He heads up the CBI in North America, and is based in the heart of Washington. And while he's there to help Northern Ireland and UK businesses enter the market, he said a Donald Trump Whitehouse is making things “very challenging”, and raises serious concerns over future investment in the US. “I am based in Washington DC, and run our North American office, which is part of the CBI international footprint,” he said. “We have a team in London running the trade policy network, in the international office, we do the leg work in each individual country. “There are subtle differences. In India and China, we do more market access than in the US. In the US, it's about providing information to our members.

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“Any harmful legislation that is coming down the line in the US, I like members to know – and, also equally, positive things. “Because the UK and US shares an important trading link, when our people come over to Washington DC, they have the same access as they would have in London.” He said Northern Ireland's strength in the US market is the wave of financial services and technology firms which have made Belfast their second home. “We have done a few fintech events, with the UK and US recently – it's one of the strengths of the Northern Ireland economy, and is hugely important. And the aerospace side, we are working hand-in-glove with Bombardier.” But he said the lack of government in Northern Ireland is another key area that potential investors would want to see resolved. “The government in the US would like to see a government in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt about that. That's the message you hear from Washington. And with the devolution of corporation tax, and lowering of the duty to 12.5%, pushed so

And, as he says, “it's very challenging”, with Trump's America First policies turning foreign investment into a collection of dirty words. “The US, relying on an America First (policy) is damaging to consumers and to employees. “Foreign investment is an important part of the US economy. The UK is a the largest bi-lateral investor - anything you do to limit investment is challenging, but the problem is a negative rhetoric to foreign investment plays well.” Asked what problems the administration's stance on business is having on trade, he says public procurement is one area being hit. “That is really affected negatively by America, and the America First policy. UK expertise could be an extremely important part of the American market.” “Every day I walk into the office, and I think it's a more traditional Republican administration, and naturally open to trade. “Then, the President goes behind our backs and fires the Secretary of State (Rex W Tillerson). “I'm concerned about the potential for investment in the US. It's more nationalistic now. As a destination for foreign investment, it doesn't look quite as positive.”


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BT creating 130 new NI jobs By John Mulgrew

B

as well as their drive and enthusiasm to get tasks completed”.

T is creating 130 new jobs across Northern Ireland as part of its latest major recruitment

“Many of the apprentices will also achieve foundation and full degrees as part of their work at BT, while some graduates will also achieve fully funded qualifications,” it said.

drive.

The telecoms giant is on the look-out for both apprentices and graduates for posts, ranging from engineering and customer service, to cyber-security. The jobs will be located across Northern Ireland, including in Belfast, Londonderry, Coleraine, Dungannon, Enniskillen and Newry. Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT, said: “We’re proud to be leading the industry by investing in training a huge number of people in the digital skills that the UK economy so vitally needs.

“BT has a rich history of innovation, and it’s an incredibly exciting time to be joining the company as we look towards growing our cyber-security business, developing 5G technologies and enhanced TV content.”

“The scheme is delivered in partnership with local colleges and universities to ensure that apprentices and graduates receive the best education for their area of focus, as well as the hands-on experience and training.”

“Our apprenticeship and graduate scheme will equip people with the skills and on the job training they will need to succeed in the future.“I’m looking forward to welcoming all our new recruits into the business.”

BT's fresh recruitment drive includes the firm's engineering division, NI Networks, which will be taking on 30 apprentices over the next 12 months.

The company said it will “assess candidates based on three measures which comprise analytical skills, how they handle change,

It currently employs more than 2,700 staff in Northern Ireland, with more than 3,500, including third-party contractors.

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09:47


INTERVIEW

We need a voice for Brexit... and NI doesn’t have one

By John Mulgrew

S

tephen Martin doesn't mince his words when it comes to Northern Ireland's ongoing political deadlock and lack of representation On the Hill. But the 52-year-old, who now heads up the IoD, strongly believes in Northern Ireland's business landscape, which includes a raft of internationally-renowned industry giants. “It is bad that we haven’t got the Assembly in place at Stormont, particularly in the one of the most challenging times in Northern Ireland's history,” he told Ulster Business. “(In April) it is the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It's sad that we can't get them to do what they were elected to to do, and that was to lead. “We need the institutions up and running and Stormont. Politicians of all parties have a real responsibility to do what they were elected to do in the first place. “The impact to the outside world. When I'm speaking to people, it's frankly embarrassing that we can't get the Assembly up and

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running. The bigger issue for me, is that aren’t making the key fundamental decisions. They should be setting budgets.”

Speaking about the Stormont impasse generally, he said: “And I think it's also being able to make the difficult decisions. “They should be making decisions, whether it's bus fares, pensions or rail travel.

And there are a number of crucial areas of business which now appear to be at a standstill, as a result of the impasse.

“They are (aware of the impact of Brexit) and the border. That is a fundamental business issue that affects all companies in Northern Ireland.

That includes the devolution of corporation tax powers to Northern Ireland - bringing in a rate of 12.5%, or lower, in order to compete with the Republic.

“You look at all the people that live on both sides of the border. It's also the west to east supply chains, and we should have politicians in the debate. These are fundamental business issues.

Powers were due to be devolved by April 2018, but that was dependent on a balanced Budget being in place, and stable devolution. “Corporation tax is fading fast, as far as I can see,” Mr Martin said. “With the US and EU looking at it... we are missing opportunities here to promote Northern Ireland, and to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI).”

“It's important we hold our politicians to account. As someone who grew up in Belfast in 70s and 80s – it looked really bad in the middle of Troubles. “There was a lack of FDI, companies (coming in). I see redevelopment on a massive scale and new industries. I see Northern Ireland as a world-class leader in certain areas.” ■


ROL Testing WorkPal R

OL Testing, one of Northern Ireland’s largest providers of electrical services, specialising in electrical testing, compliance, maintenance, UPS and lighting has increased productivity and created a more transparent working environment thanks to WorkPal. Operating across the commercial and industrial sector throughout the UK and Ireland, ROL Testing needed a better way to manage both customers and staff remotely. WorkPal is a mobile and desktop app which streamlines workflow, with job management, time tracking, job reports and invoicing all from the palm of your hand. Mobile workers have access to customised job sheets from the mobile app, can be guided through their task and have the ability to report back instantaneously on the progress. Once a job is completed, WorkPal allows for speedy invoicing, even from out in the field. The end-to-end process management ensures that the accounts department is completely integrated with field workers and everyone in between. WorkPal’s customisable reporting tool allows ROL Testing to create reports in minutes, rather than days. With no need for paper forms ROL Testing is able to carry out risk assessments, vehicle checks and NIEIC approved forms all on the WorkPal app, saving time for workers and management.

Martin McCusker, Commercial Manager at ROL Testing with Ian Megahey, Head of Sales at WorkPal and Richard O’Lone, Managing Director at ROL Testing

Richard O’Lone, Managing Director at ROL Testing said: “We’ve been using the system for six months now and have noticed vast improvements in how we operate.

Ian Megahey, Head of WorkPal sales said: “The configurable nature of WorkPal means it can be uniquely integrated with a company’s own internal systems, making it extremely userfriendly.”

“The fact that WorkPal can be completely customised and configurable to us is the biggest benefit. We have been able to tailor it to suit our needs entirely.

“ROL Testing were using a number of paper based forms for each job, slowing down how the information got from site to office and then to client. WorkPal was able to create these forms on the app, including their required NIEIC electrical certificates, aiding compliance.”

“Live updates from any of our sites can be updated on the app for all employees to see and there’s no need to do any paperwork after site visits, saving us endless amounts of time, particularly with us working right across the UK and ROI. “The app is very user friendly, and the transition from our old system was seamless thanks to the dedicated project management team at WorkPal.”

“Being able to track data in real time and invoice customers immediately allows ROL Testing to free up admin time and put more time into the business and ultimately, their customers. “With GPS, time tracking and job management, WorkPal increases productivity and gives clients an accurate method of capturing costs, putting an end to under billing or under estimating job times by improving quotes. Logged job times and breakdowns of reports create both added value for client’s customers and a more transparent experience. “Businesses have saved up to £25,000 per year in administration costs, allowing the money to be put back into the business.” ■ For more information on how WorkPal can transform your business and put an end to your paper work, contact one of the WorkPal team on 028 9027 1777, info@yourworkpal.com or visit yourworkpal.com

APRIL 2018

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COVER STORY

The next generation helping to shape business PwC’s Barry-John Kelly and Emma Murray on how having a wider perspective brings its benefits

Emma Murray and Barry-John Kelly, both of whom have been around PwC for a while - nearly 18 years in Murray’s case are increasingly taking on roles that are helping to shape the future direction of the business. PwC Northern Ireland regional chairman Paul Terrington, says: “We’re encouraging some of our younger faces to help tackle some very old problems,” as he introduces two of the firm’s up-and-coming senior management.

T

he current seeming impasse around avoiding a post-Brexit ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland has sparked a debate around the size, structure and capacity of the local economy. Eyebrows were raised when one reputable commentator said there were. “… only around 50” large companies exporting from NI to the Republic – suggesting that policing 50 businesses might be less onerous than even the EU negotiators had assumed. PwC’s associate partner, Emma Murray says the reality is that Northern Ireland is a pretty mixed economy. “There are currently over 71,600 VAT and PAYE-registered undertakings

16

operating in the north – that’s over 800 fewer than were operating in 2008 and, in 2017, while only 2.3% of these were externallyowned, these businesses accounted for almost a quarter (23.6%) of Northern Ireland employees. “And, of that 71,600, only just over 200 have more than 250 workers while the top-100 alone employ around 51,000 workers.” Emma Murray reminds us that the local economy today is not the local economy most business leaders grew up in: “Between 1998 and 2007, Northern Ireland was the second fastest-growing of the 12 UK regions after London. But it suffered the greatest reversal

in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis and since then London is the only region to have increased its overall share of national GVA.” And she suggests that there is still a mixed picture in NI, as compared to the rest of the UK: “If we look at the relative performance over the past couple of decades, NI’s manufacturing contribution to NI’s gross value added (GVA) increased by around 1.4% between 2009 and 2016 – more than twice the UK average increase of 0.6% and ahead of most other regions other than Wales and the Midlands. But, over the same period, NI had the second-lowest increase in professional services GVA growth and that’s where regions


COVER STORY

in Northern Ireland with Northern Ireland’s family-owned and owner-managed businesses. The experience and expertise we gain from big overseas clients and markets comes back home and that gets put to work scaling-up our local clients and helping them become more competitive. “That mix of export and domestic experience is what helps keep us competitive and keeps our clients coming back,” she says. “That’s maybe why we’ve got more family-owned and ownermanaged clients than any other professional advisor here. It’s the mix of global experience and local focus that really helps deliver value.” Emma’s commitment to the local economy and local business is echoed by Barry-John Kelly who heads up the firm’s mid-tier transactions team. His job, he says, is to complement Emma Murray in her quest to scale-up their clients. “It’s about adding value to a business, regardless of size. We work with local, owner-managed businesses - helping them to maximise their value as they pursue acquisition, growth and occasionally, helping them prepare for, or negotiate a sale.” Barry-John Kelly, head of midtier transactions at PwC and PwC associate partner, Emma Murray

like London and the South East of England have scored most highly.” And changing that is the challenge facing the region’s public and private sectors. “Rebalancing the economy has been the consistent goal of successive Executives, but rebuilding an economy takes time, money, a political will to commit to long-term strategies - and a lot of nurturing,” Murray says. In a sense, PwC’s local operations reflect the reality of the local economy. With around 1,800 professional staff - recruitment moves so fast that there’s never quite a precise figure – a significant number of employees service PwC’s global clients, delivering everything from Blockchain and technology solutions to research and long-term project management. But Emma Murray says there is still a laserfocus on the local economy, “I and my colleagues spend 99% of our time working

APRIL 2018

He says that Brexit has heightened awareness of the world beyond the island of Ireland and the UK, “Brexit is focusing a lot of management and owners’ minds on just how competitive their business really is. Emma’s job is to help with the focus on building better businesses, mine is to help focus on the opportunities out there for those businesses.

We’re shaping businesses for growth – that includes everything from getting the company’s affairs in order, reviewing the corporate structure and controls and undertaking due diligence.

But both are anxious to demolish any lingering perceptions that PwC just wants to work with the world’s biggest blue chip clients. We have clients that arrive with their accounts in a plastic bag and we have global businesses and plcs. My job is to help scale-up the former to become internationally-competitive and we’ve been pretty successful at it. That gets around, whether it’s the golf-club, the GAA or the rugby club, it’s the power of the peer-group that bring new business. Do a good job with one client, they talk to their peers and friends and the phone rings - and we do it all over again,” says Emma. Barry-John Kelly agrees. “If you are in the right sector and can access the right skills, you already have an edge, but we’re working with a number of local private companies to identify acquisition opportunities that can offer more dynamic growth as well as synergy with the existing core business and its management. We’re shaping businesses for growth and that shaping process can include everything from getting the company’s affairs in order, reviewing the corporate structure and controls and undertaking due diligence.” “A lot of people don’t appreciate that the growth challenge is primarily management and not money,” Kelly says, “There’s both money and investors out there; they are chasing opportunities and bargains and the management that can deliver both. Whether a client comes looking for investment opportunities, fast-growth potential, a partner/ investor or even for a sale, that shaping process remains the key. “We’ve recently been involved in a successful flotation where the business was typical of most local private businesses, but well below what you typically see launching on the London market. But they had a great product and a very competent management team – and that’s what the market backed. And we’ve helped facilitate a recent highly successful sale where the profile was similar. “In fact, the greatest potential for growth or for increasing corporate value lies in these familyowned and owner-managed businesses. There’s a growing appetite for investment in that sector and we’re increasingly finding private businesses wanting to know more. It’s the same as Emma is experiencing with her clients - it’s the power of the peer-group.” >

17


COVER STORY

Over two thirds (67%) of UK CEOs are having difficulty recruiting people with digital skills, a quarter of UK manufacturing businesses see skills shortages as inhibiting output, while a third of financial services undertakings are constrained by a lack of professional staff.

But if that’s the world of today, what’s out there for tomorrow and how should private businesses react? Emma Murray points to an historic issue and to a future trend. “One of the hangovers of the financial crisis was the extent to which perfectly viable undertakings merged their core business with property investment. So when the property market collapsed, many otherwise good businesses experienced serious distress. So the first lesson is, take careful advice around corporate and group structures and intercompany debt.” “Second is that technology is changing the world. Our recent PwC Family Business Survey found that one of the greatest tensions

PwC associate partner, Emma Murray

between the generations was the founding generation who tended to support the ‘if it’s not broken don’t fix it’ view, while younger family members were looking to technology to automate routine functions, add value to sales and marketing, improve skills and boost productivity.” And PwC says technology and skills are changing the business climate. Their recent Global CEO Survey found that over two thirds (67%) of UK CEOs were having difficulty recruiting people with digital skills. Other PwC survey data suggest that a quarter of UK manufacturing businesses see skills shortages as inhibiting output, while a third of financial services undertakings are constrained by a lack of professional staff. Barry-John Kelly says one of the benefits that the big-firm can bring to the smaller private sector client is this level of market intelligence and insight. “These regular reports are based on expert analysis of global trends and local

experience, examining the opportunities as well as the threats. So, where jobs are at risk from automation, the technology itself will create new opportunities. “Technological innovations will also create new jobs, from online website designers and AI specialists to those involved in designing, making, supervising and maintaining automated manufacturing and service systems from drones to robots. That level of insight is increasingly why we’re finding family-owned and ownermanaged companies coming to us for advice.”

Those who fail to invest in skills and the technology, may ultimately fail themselves.

The message from Emma and Barry-John is that the world is changing and that those who understand and can anticipate the changes will be best placed to capitalise on them. “Insight delivers opportunity,” says Emma Murray, “and the businesses with the insight and the route to finance their expansion or sale, are the family-owned and owner-managed businesses that are probably best placed to prosper as technology changes the world as we know it.” ■

Barry-John Kelly, head of midtier transactions at PwC

18

For more information on how PwC can help grow your business, contact Emma Murray (emma.m.murray@pwc.com) and Barry-John Kelly (barry-john.kelly@pwc.com)


BUYING BUYING SELLING SELLING&& VALUATIONS VALUATIONS MADE MADESIMPLE SIMPLE

www.midulsterauctions.com www.midulsterauctions.com

Tel: +44 Tel:(0)28 +44 7946 (0)28 9564 7946 9564 1-6 Loves 1-6 Hill, Loves Castledawson Hill, Castledawson Road, Road, Magherafelt, Magherafelt, Co. L/Derry, Co. L/Derry, Northern Northern IrelandIreland BT45 8DP BT45 8DP


IN FOCUS

How to solve a problem like the Michelin site? John Mulgrew finds out that huge plans are under way to turn the former Michelin site in Ballymena into a modern manufacturing hub

T

he loss of an industry stalwart can impact not only the direct workforce but have a devastating effect on the surrounding area and supply chain as a whole. Almost three years after Michelin announced it was pulling the plug on its Ballymena base, with the loss of more than 800 jobs, it’s being redeveloped and turned into a multi-million pound manufacturing hub – which those behind it hoping to attract hundreds of longterm jobs – with the rest being pitched for Heathrow’s new logistics hub. Michelin is behind the scheme, alongside developers and Mid and East Antrim Council. Michelin’s Raceview Road facility has been sold to developer Silverwood, with the council taking on 10 acres of the site. The council’s chief executive, Anne Donaghy, chief executive, is one of those spearheading the ambitious plans. “The plans will be developing it for Heathrow, and we have made that proposal. We would have a five-acre site, for logistics to support the need for Heathrow. The second part (of the development) is the advanced manufacturing centre of excellence. “Mid and East Antrim has been the manufacturing centre in Northern Ireland, and we have had some significant job losses, with Michelin and JTI.”

20

Michelin’s announcement in 2015 that it was to close its plant was the second setback for the town’s economy after plans to close the JTI Gallaher cigarette factory, where 800 people were employed, were revealed the previous year. Ms Donaghy’s council’s manufacturing taskforce is aiming to “try and circle the wagons... and save manufacturing jobs to keep the fight”. She wants the new ‘advanced manufacturing site’ to attract in Northern Ireland-based businesses, as well as foreign direct investors not already operating here, and avoid the huge space being used for new housing developments. “We have worked hard to keep the Michelin site, as a site, where there will be jobs,” she said. “Effectively, it will be units – workspace for different organisations to rent, or run. “Michelin has been amazing, how they have worked with us. They are fulfilling a legacy to the people of Ballymena.” John Milsted, factory manager at Michelin in Ballymena, said the company had committed to helping start-ups and small businesses create at least 100 jobs a year for the next seven years.


IN FOCUS

“We wanted to leave a legacy that would benefit the area for generations to come, and I think we have achieved that,” he said.

“(There will be) substantial jobs, and we want to give people space to grow. I want to move my economic growth team to the site as well.”

Ms Donaghy said they are moving towards bringing in a series of different manufacturing businesses.

Looking at the long term, to inject the same money back into the area’s economy, she said, with the Michelin jobs being high paid, around 2,000 new positions would need to be created in their place.

“We will be using a co-ordination of services. The centre of the site, the heating and electrics, we will have a contract with them for energy and heating gas, and there are also two wind turbines.” Ms Donaghy said interest in the development is already “strong”. “There is a lot of interest in It. Even from across the water – through ourselves, the company, MPs and councillors,” she said. Production at the Michelin factory is scheduled to stop at the end of April. She said the council also has plans at moving its own digital hub, to the former Michelin site. “Once we get our head around where we are going, I think it will fill very quickly,” she said. On the jobs front, she said she hopes the employment being created will be “substantial”.

APRIL 2018

“As the planning authority, we are working to ensure land is zoned for industry and manufacturing. We have a very pro-business planning team. “Ballymena, and Mid and East Antrim is synonymous with manufacturing, and we are going to keep focused on that. While we introduce new sectors, we are not prepared to let go of the manufacturing.” It’s also believed that a window and door manufacturer is due to set up production at the site soon. As far as the plans for the Heathrow go, six sites in Northern Ireland have been listed as potential regional logistic hubs for the off-site construction of the airport’s third runway. The chosen hub will pre-assemble components for the runway before they are transported to the airport, which created the competition to ensure the investment would be spread outside of London. ■

21


In association with

Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards nominees to be celebrated in London TakeOff Foundation Business Awards shortlist Best Business Start-Up Award: Groundswell Growth Ltd, Titanic FX and AG Electrical NI Ltd Best SME Award: STATSports Group Limited, CGDM Construction and TS Foods Fast Growth Business Award: UForm, Cyphra and FinTrU Ltd

The Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards judges at the Fitzwilliam Hotel, from (l-r) seated: Roseann Kelly, Chief Executive, Women in Business; Gary McDonald, Business Editor, Irish News; Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager, Aer Lingus NI. From (l-r) standing: Bob McGowan-Smyth, Investment Director, Crescent Capital; Richard Sherriff, Business Editor, News Letter; Margaret Canning, Business Editor, Belfast Telegraph; Kieran McGarrigle, Partner, Head of Finance, Arthur Cox; Wendy Austin, Presenter, BBC Inside Business; Jeremy Fitch, Executive Director, Business & Sector Development Group, Invest Northern Ireland; Kirsty McManus, National Director, Institute of Directors NI and John Mulgrew, Editor, Ulster Business

T

ension is mounting with the announcement of the 10th annual Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards, following deliberation by an 11-strong panel of judges. The awards celebrate and reward those companies that have contributed to the local economy and also made significant progress in global export markets. Among the nine contested categories, Fortress Diagnostics, Environmental Street Furniture and Brookvent vie for the title of Exporter of the Year, while Cyphra, FinTrU Ltd and UForm battle for the Fast Growth Business Award. Shortlisted companies will be flown to a prestigious awards ceremony in London from George Best Belfast City Airport with Aer Lingus.

The esteemed judging panel included Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager at Aer Lingus; John Mulgrew, Editor, Ulster Business; Gary McDonald, Business Editor, Irish News; Margaret Canning, Business Editor, Belfast Telegraph; Richard Sherriff, Business Editor, News Letter; Wendy Austin, Presenter, BBC Inside Business; Bob McGowan-Smyth, Investment Director, Crescent Capital; Kieran McGarrigle, Partner, Head of Finance, Arthur Cox; Kirsty McManus, National Director, Institute of Directors NI, Jeremy Fitch, Executive Director, Business and Sector Development Group, Invest NI and Roseann Kelly, Chief Executive, Women In Business. Andrea Hunter, Business Development Manager at Aer Lingus said: “The Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation is proud to support and celebrate outstanding businesses across Northern Ireland. Every year the calibre of entrants seems yet more impressive than the one before. It wasn't easy to arrive at our list of finalists, but each one of them deserves their place on the shortlist. “The companies and individuals we're rewarding have demonstrated a true commitment to innovation and have achieved remarkable growth both here in Northern Ireland and across the globe.

Excellence in Marketing Award: Henderson Wholesale Ltd, Danske Bank and Babocush Exporter of the Year Award: Fortress Diagnostics, Brookvent and Environmental Street Furniture Innovation of the Year Award: See. Sense, Rolltack and OKTO Technologies Business Person of the Year Award: Keith Graham, Selective Travel Management, Cathal Grant, CDGM Construction Ltd and Gareth Loye, Mascott Construction Overall Excellence Award: IPC Mouldings, Selective Travel Management and OKTO Technologies The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award will be announced during the awards ceremony “They are playing a pivotal role in the economic growth of Northern Ireland and their achievements, their entrepreneurship and business acumen act as a benchmark to the rest of the business community here. The Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at the IoD Headquarters on Pall Mall, London. For more information about the 2018 Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards, visit aerlingusbusinessawards.com


iMultiply: Helping family businesses access talent Family owned, entrepreneurial enterprises account for almost threequarters of companies in Northern Ireland, with more than half in either their second or third generation. As an owner managed business ourselves, iMultiply, a dedicated finance and executive search firm, understands the challenges of attracting and retaining talent, scaling and planning for the growth journey ahead. One of the key focuses of our experienced team in Belfast is recruiting talented, qualified finance professionals into the owner managed sector, and having opened our doors in Northern Ireland last year we have been warmly welcomed into this business community. Billy McCarthy, Director of iMultiply Belfast, said: “We have found that companies with an appetite for growth, such as ourselves, are the lifeblood of Northern Ireland and we have been delighted by the reception we have had to growing our business into Belfast. “Attracting and retaining talent is the number one concern for the leadership of family firms. Finding and hiring high calibre people with the right skill-set and at a cost that makes sense to the business can be a major catalyst or barrier for growth.

Billy McCarthy, Director of iMultiply Belfast

“Qualified accountants are particularly in high demand. The talent and capability of finance professionals is on a par with other locations we operate in. Where Northern Ireland potentially lags behind is the volume of talent - there are fewer qualified accountants currently looking for employment, exacerbated by the talent drain to Dublin and London.” This is where a trusted recruitment partner can prove invaluable. iMultiply has already utilised its extensive networks in Scotland and further afield to target finance professionals who have family ties with Northern Ireland and are considering making the move home. How to grow your business to the next stage has also been a shared interest with entrepreneurial businesses. This is where attracting finance talent will help in terms of business forecasting and tax planning, sourcing funding and providing an objective pair of eyes to optimise corporate structure. Barriers to securing growth capital can be overcome with the right professional expertise on your team, which will provide the opportunity to market and expand your product or service offering. “iMultiply has a demonstrable track record of working closely with scaling companies who are looking to build a talented finance function. As a growth company ourselves, we understand the peaks and troughs of scaling and are enjoying working with local businesses and investors who share iMultiply's entrepreneurial and inclusive values”, according to Jamie Watts, iMultiply Manager in Belfast.

Jamie Watts, Manager of iMultiply Belfast

“We are working closely with our investor network which has rightly identified Northern Ireland as a strong market for potential equity investment. These investors are keen for us to facilitate introductions to business leaders interested in securing growth capital.” Looking to the future, not planning for the next generation of leader is a recognised threat to the continuity of family run businesses. Your finance team are critical to this process, providing help with the timing and questions around future ownership, management of shares and capital, and tax issues. It stands to reason that when you come to this business crossroads you need the best finance professionals available at your side. iMultiply is a dedicated finance & executive search firm, with offices in Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow. If you are interested in recruiting an experienced finance professional to support the future of your business, please contact Billy McCarthy, Director of iMultiply Belfast or Jamie Watts, iMultiply Manager on 02892449980.


Third win for top NI car firm

N

orthern Ireland car dealer John Mulholland Motors has been named the UK's top Skoda dealer for the third time.

“From the moment a customer walks through our doors we aim to provide them with the best; the best advice, the best service, the best choice and the best value, all in a friendly professional manner.

The family-run firm, which has bases in Randalstown and Campsie, walked away with the gong during the event at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The business is run by John and Alicia Mulholland. The accolade is based on a range of areas including used car sales, satisfaction, aftersales and workshop performance.

The John Mulholland Motors team after winning top Skoda dealer award for the third time

John Mulholland Motors is the only firm to be given the award on three occasions.

perform at almost 100% consistently for a full year,” he said.

Managing director John Mulholland, said taking the gong “twice in three years is totally remarkable and then to follow that up again for a third year is nothing short of phenomenal”.

Mr Mulholland said standards are maintained with the “three Ps” which includes “persistence, passion and people”.

“To achieve this demanding award once in a company’s history is amazing given the fact that every aspect of our business must

24

“Without the right people it would be impossible. We nurture, train and encourage everyone in our business to be the very best they can be but of course none of this would be possible without our customers,” he said.

“We have always gone that extra mile to make our customers feel special, after all without them there is no John Mulholland Motors. I would like to thank each and every customer past and present for giving myself and my staff the opportunity to demonstrate our award winning service.” The company deals in more than 3,500 cars each year, and is celebrating 30 years in business. It began trading in 1988. In 2017, it was named number one family business in Ireland at a top awards event. The Skoda specialist triumphed at the National Family Business of the Year Awards at Wembley Stadium. The business is Northern Ireland's longestestablished Skoda dealer, and it also holds franchises for Hyundai and Ford. ■


UB 200

Ulster Business list the 200 companies which fall just outside the Top 100 when ranked in order of turnover. This snapshot from Companies House filings highlights the backbone of the Northern Ireland economy


At the heart of business in Ireland Š 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

UB 200

1-34

Rank

Company Name

Account date

Turnover for latest year

Previous turnover

1

Montupet (UK) Ltd

31/12/2016

78,866,771

85,029,979

13,283,477

59707156

2

Gardrum Holdings Ltd

31/12/2016

78,424,000

84,092,000

13,104,000

62604000

3

Magir Ltd

31/08/2016

78,182,541

76,725,634

4

Agricolor Ltd

30/09/2016

78,001,555

5

Severfield (NI)ILtd

31/03/2017

77,540,000

69,662,000

6

Philip Russell Ltd

31/12/2016

77,407,593

7

Allstate Northern Ireland Ltd

31/12/2016

76,758,039

8

Balcas Timber Ltd

31/12/2016

76,290,000

71,791,000

-924,000

6603000

9

Agro Merchants Lurgan Transport Ltd

31/12/2016

75,593,259

61,727,528

2,042,752

14595135

10

R & H Hall Trading Ltd

31/07/2016

75,282,034

84,294,355

1,282,542

9271446

11

Ryobi Aluminium Casting (UK) Ltd

31/12/2016

75,187,499

75,211,103

-4,163,241

18800590

12

Wireless Group Ltd

31/12/2015

75,074,000

116,043,000

17,607,000

108450000

13

Diageo Global Supply Ibc Ltd

30/06/2016

74,522,000

66,527,000

3,086,000

16412000

14

Graham Asset Management Ltd

31/03/2017

74,406,000

69,772,000

2,649,000

14671000

15

Seatruck Ferries Ltd

31/12/2016

74,024,526

64,420,808

14,823,799

6020779

16

Cooneen by Design Ltd

02/12/2016

73,762,275

75,892,633

6,175,956

60517978

17

Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta Ltd

31/12/2016

72,872,343

41,956,709

4,409,243

24536061

18

Savage & Whitten Wholesale Ltd

31/12/2016

72,717,938

62,975,706

-2,279,589

2540601

19

Charles Hurst Motors Ltd

31/12/2016

70,288,000

71,440,000

224,000

6023000

20

Andor Technology Ltd

31/03/2017

69,155,000

59,757,000

12,678,000

52098000

21

Lagan Construction Aviation Ltd

31/03/2017

68,422,025

47,647,752

6,020,479

8715976

22

Ulster Carpet Mills (Holdings) Ltd

31/03/2017

68,403,288

64,153,030

6,717,126

49355612

23

Whitemountain Quarries Ltd

31/12/2017

66,922,884

58,715,878

6,386,717

42318561

24

Northern Ireland Railways Company Ltd

26/03/2017

65,091,000

64,333,000

1,401,000

-42080000

25

Almac Pharma Services Ltd

30/09/2016

64,406,365

57,746,436

8,652,031

38129590

26

D & W Carlisle Ltd

31/07/2016

64,189,302

71,161,433

465,105

3910887

27

Cranswick Country Foods (Ballymena)

31/03/2017

63,907,000

72,446,000

2,900,000

5672000

28

Donnelly & Taggart Ltd

31/10/2016

63,365,795

59,674,419

247,262

3610820

29

Skea Egg Farms Ltd

31/12/2016

63,271,766

61,678,010

2,993,821

16437082

30

Drinks Inc Ltd

31/03/2017

62,711,078

57,160,723

3,256,797

10815922

31

McCloskey International Ltd

30/09/2016

61,986,496

67,644,660

3,357,447

18742664

32

Woodside Haulage (Holdings) Ltd

31/03/2017

61,802,754

56,776,409

3,987,178

21324504

33

MJM Marine Ltd

31/12/2016

61,503,009

58,893,596

7,447,687

17659540

34

Mivan Ltd

30/06/2012

61,171,000

104,457,000

10,389,000

-3399000

Net worth

845,961

283654

17,331,814

24094034

11,032,000

23870000

77,722,298

1,585,604

15742268

89,969,020

-5,809,378

30465789

Data provided by Dun & Bradstreet T: 0800 001 234

26

Pre-tax profit


At the heart of business in Ireland © 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

UB 200 Turnover for latest year

Previous turnover

35-68

Rank

Company Name

Account date

Pre-tax profit

Net worth

35

N.I.I.B. Group Ltd

31/12/2016

61,055,008

39,495,429

23,689,066

31214790

36

Mutual Energy Ltd

31/03/2017

60,795,000

68,097,000

10,003,000

81823000

37

Morgan Fuel & Lubes Ltd

31/03/2017

60,367,561

49,633,876

212,867

287803

38

Haldane Fisher Ltd

31/12/2016

59,186,200

51,350,130

3,001,511

10185129

39

Decora Blind Systems Ltd

31/12/2016

58,826,558

46,756,109

3,953,549

17660256

40

T B F Thompson (Garvagh) Ltd

31/12/2016

57,978,137

38,161,000

1,178,603

1827483

41

Em News Distribution (Ni) Ltd

31/12/2016

57,544,000

61,902,000

2,173,000

4679000

42

McAvoy Group Ltd

31/10/2016

57,496,598

44,808,625

2,287,857

7183900

43

Wright En-Drive Ltd

31/12/2016

57,339,391

87,523,443

594,878

6141726

44

Mac-Interiors Ltd

31/12/2016

56,552,626

36,591,361

3,387,199

7463431

45

Northway Mushrooms Ltd

31/12/2016

56,244,560

55,879,422

67,682

1457618

46

Fane Valley Feeds Ltd

30/09/2016

55,958,026

57,747,558

16,750,735

21510380

47

Walter Watson Ltd

31/12/2016

55,347,661

45,000,742

6,145,250

17887237

48

Murdock Builders Merchants Ltd

31/12/2016

55,193,415

49,993,162

1,634,229

1648356

49

Thompson Aero Seating Ltd

31/12/2016

55,132,693

64,865,197

6,760,729

37751381

50

Unilin Distribution Ltd

31/12/2016

54,683,052

48,009,114

1,976,062

11193907

51

Vaughan Engineering Group Ltd

31/03/2017

54,248,654

68,566,912

-2,053,061

1803731

52

Kainos Software Ltd

31/03/2017

53,809,000

46,597,000

13,833,000

7742000

53

Heatons (NI) Ltd

30/04/2017

53,644,392

48,312,267

-270,746

17340273

54

Roadside Motors Ltd

30/09/2016

53,582,831

55,078,057

526,203

6482288

55

Cde Global Ltd

31/12/2016

53,381,352

46,343,932

5,299,040

14132042

56

Medwyn Holding Ltd

31/03/2017

53,118,150

43,126,733

3,759,131

21270493

57

Galen Ltd

30/09/2016

52,511,772

54,263,458

7,952,404

41869366

58

William Keys & Sons Ltd

31/12/2016

52,496,180

62,643,457

5,557,740

17653930

59

Tennent's NI Ltd

28/02/2017

52,407,000

58,749,000

7,035,000

15044000

60

Dennison Commercials Ltd

31/12/2016

52,219,739

43,786,423

3,048,425

9941254

61

Edgewater Contracts & Specialist Joinery Ltd

31/12/2016

51,663,225

12,663,481

3,547,638

3799339

62

Henry Group (NI) Ltd

31/03/2017

51,650,000

40,110,000

1,150,000

18106000

63

Avondale Foods (Craigavon) Ltd

31/03/2017

50,717,802

51,110,439

4,591,231

21149186

64

Keys Care Ltd

31/03/2017

50,639,540

42,778,438

2,966,094

11004727

65

Phoenix Natural Gas Ltd

31/12/2016

50,428,000

49,131,000

-6,096,000

261663000

66

Veterinary Surgeons Supply Company Ltd

31/08/2017

50,004,166

44,434,816

769,696

5326638

67

Bemis Healthcare Packaging Ltd

31/12/2016

49,851,552

45,119,447

8,452,841

18856815

68

Cobell International Ltd

31/03/2017

49,542,190

38,315,498

1,553,862

4487557

Data provided by Dun & Bradstreet T: 0800 001 234

APRIL 2018

27


At the heart of business in Ireland © 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

UB 200

69-101

Rank

Company Name

Account date

Turnover for latest year

Previous turnover

Pre-tax profit

Net worth

69

Property Management Services (NI) Ltd

31/12/2016

48,503,026

45,430,783

581,335

9449686

70

Felix O'Hare & Company Ltd

31/03/2017

47,876,532

41,896,702

1,759,770

6741811

71

Evron Foods Ltd

31/08/2016

47,666,119

45,411,040

72

Autoline Direct Insurance Consultants Ltd

31/12/2016

47,412,443

73

JKC Specialist Cars Ltd

31/12/2016

46,979,972

74

Strathroy Dairy Ltd

31/07/2016

46,938,218

75

Errigal Contracts Ltd

31/12/2016

76

Grafton Recruitment Ltd

31/03/2016

77

Kane Group Building Services Ltd

78

TW Scott & Sons (Fuels) Ltd

79 80

590,316

5652867

1,729,944

5335896

40,285,983

1,056,693

5331266

49,664,191

470,198

5942713

46,932,438

33,823,736

4,070,784

8019361

46,775,818

40,955,578

418,394

1531104

31/03/2017

46,298,721

25,051,387

2,882,420

4342879

31/03/2017

46,177,243

53,308,837

-175,676

2011692

Noonan Services Group (NI) Ltd

31/12/2016

46,016,856

44,943,578

176,016

3630672

Lynn's Country Foods Ltd

31/08/2016

45,854,202

44,909,942

3,681,910

14293958

81

Keystone Holding Ltd

31/12/2016

45,780,770

42,592,483

2,662,550

20633518

82

Raalse Holdings Ltd

31/12/2016

45,175,155

680,959

1609058

83

Motis Ireland Ltd

30/06/2016

45,119,613

42,336,484

1,830,519

1268875

84

Desmond Motors Ltd

31/12/2016

44,601,699

39,518,796

151,193

3366156

85

S.E.R.E. Holdings Ltd

31/12/2016

44,601,431

39,060,158

679,517

3727688

86

Harry Corry Ltd

28/02/2017

44,369,100

41,300,808

4,008,008

8145868

87

Henry Brothers Ltd

31/03/2017

44,183,000

35,659,068

1,588,000

16690000

88

Camden Group Ltd

31/03/2017

43,881,340

38,662,437

944,618

9462779

89

Denvir Holdings Ltd

30/06/2016

43,839,716

7,561,233

4153083

90

Prestige Insurance Holdings Ltd

31/03/2016

43,672,000

33,586,000

1,598,000

17360000

91

Diesel Card International Ltd

31/03/2017

43,380,000

34,803,000

1,489,000

17289000

92

Boreal Ltd

31/12/2016

43,331,991

18,276,491

3,087,130

7452257

93

H&J Martin Ltd

31/03/2017

43,164,889

47,598,391

88,031

-1698184

94

Noel Eakin & Sons Ltd

31/12/2016

43,147,635

17,484,186

2,920,844

6494917

95

Lough Erne Investments Ltd

25/12/2016

43,127,988

40,189,994

6,770,686

18239504

96

Gaffer (NI) Ltd

31/12/2016

42,690,222

37,682,988

2,294,049

12038703

97

Ready Egg Products Ltd

31/12/2016

42,517,510

40,003,894

7,195,948

26825761

98

Mallaghan (Holdings) Ltd

31/12/2016

42,347,576

49,826,478

2,715,514

15566586

99

Premier Electrics Ltd

31/03/2017

41,759,563

50,951,547

3,628,081

13458438

100

Keystone Lintels Ltd

31/12/2016

41,402,352

36,064,014

644,414

13153664

101

James Tolland & Company Ltd

31/05/2017

40,852,587

37,345,013

656,920

3656697

Data provided by Dun & Bradstreet T: 0800 001 234

28


At the heart of business in Ireland © 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

UB 200 102-134 Rank

Company Name

Account date

Turnover for latest year

Previous turnover

Pre-tax profit

Net worth

102

World Travel Centre Ltd

31/10/2016

40,787,392

33,981,968

109,856

2267736

103

Portview Fit-Out Ltd

30/11/2016

40,371,802

41,114,106

3,201,414

4009846

104

Ballyrobert Service Station Ltd

31/12/2016

40,354,803

35,658,414

482,596

2295046

105

United Feeds Ltd

31/03/2017

40,256,000

40,401,000

1,480,000

2903000

106

Williams Industrial Services Ltd

31/05/2016

39,916,764

26,001,155

1,507,423

3557590

107

Liberty Information Technology Ltd

31/12/2016

39,728,032

36,481,816

7,021,859

13576203

108

Smyths Toys NI Ltd

30/12/2016

39,668,000

33,632,000

992,000

2353000

109

Lagan Construction Ltd

31/03/2016

39,426,766

81,936,000

1,230,226

996417

110

Copeland Ltd

30/09/2016

39,189,641

37,259,034

2,123,230

19702472

111

Citybus Ltd

26/03/2017

39,152,000

39,104,000

127,000

14295000

112

United Wine Merchants Ltd

31/12/2016

39,118,554

40,211,791

386,980

9523590

113

Doherty & Gray Ltd

31/03/2017

38,681,390

39,588,644

389,367

3357998

114

Liquorland Ltd

30/09/2016

38,471,030

32,106,251

1,408,861

6904358

115

Wineflair (Belfast) Ltd

30/09/2016

38,471,030

32,106,251

1,408,861

15168393

116

Morgan McLernon Ltd

31/10/2016

38,079,029

1,615,417

1728264

117

Millar Tractors Ltd

28/02/2017

37,729,744

18,552,813

1,026,436

6462125

118

Donnelly Bros Garages (Fermanagh) Ltd

31/10/2016

37,684,583

33,793,920

-253,177

603350

119

Western Building Systems (Hld) Ltd

30/04/2017

37,560,051

39,454,661

4,479,719

22031345

120

John Hogg & Co Ltd

30/04/2017

37,547,000

35,977,000

2,812,000

27920000

121

Brakes Foodservice NI Ltd

31/12/2015

37,317,000

35,052,000

813,000

595000

122

Mfl Realisations 2017 Ltd

31/01/2016

37,292,542

25,943,841

968,981

1033368

123

Donnelly Bros (Belfast) Ltd

31/10/2016

37,269,734

37,887,882

239,001

3202918

124

Western Building Systems Ltd

30/04/2017

37,225,343

39,873,998

4,151,800

11000969

125

Tobermore Concrete Products Ltd

30/04/2017

37,015,118

32,364,275

9,968,137

63897620

126

Hastings Hotels Group Ltd

31/10/2017

36,763,548

35,306,647

4,918,796

39935175

127

Bawnbua Foods NI Ltd

31/01/2017

36,720,430

35,438,017

749,141

3839682

128

Moyola (Cellars) Ltd

31/10/2016

36,700,470

35,286,470

4,231,287

25040561

129

O&S Holdings Ltd

31/12/2015

36,584,662

32,064,512

6,045,299

26911756

130

Acheson Holdings Ltd

31/03/2017

36,578,312

35,522,591

-273,137

7735097

131

Ach No.1 Ltd

31/03/2017

36,578,312

25,332,191

14,965

1147348

132

Direct Medics Ltd

31/01/2017

36,377,800

27,906,161

2,690,175

7215380

133

Stothers (M&E) Ltd

30/06/2016

36,326,214

20,281,629

1,554,608

4492084

134

Cb Sme Holdings Ltd

30/06/2016

36,326,213

20,281,629

4,809,553

4587049

Data provided by Dun & Bradstreet T: 0800 001 234

APRIL 2018

29


At the heart of business in Ireland © 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

UB 200 135-167 Rank

Company Name

Account date

Turnover for latest year

Previous turnover

Pre-tax profit

135

Elmgrove Foods Ltd

30/09/2016

36,273,755

32,416,733

279,836

1802348

136

Frylite Ltd

02/04/2017

36,101,254

28,591,753

219,639

10426557

137

Shelbourne Motors Ltd

31/12/2016

36,090,637

36,108,747

1,226,358

5846169

138

C & J Meats Ltd

30/11/2016

36,080,365

35,207,874

125,592

762260

139

Terumo Bct Ltd

31/03/2017

36,032,422

27,385,402

2,249,906

9411644

140

Island Roads Services Ltd

31/12/2016

35,733,074

32,469,680

1,401,686

-15186117

141

John Mulholland Motors Ltd

31/12/2016

35,587,792

30,452,292

1,008,839

7906933

142

AJ Power Ltd

30/06/2016

35,479,582

39,144,545

2,437,094

9192271

143

Regency Carpet Manufacturing Ltd

30/06/2016

35,377,395

38,622,357

570,957

10528451

144

Uni-Trunk Holdings Ltd

31/12/2016

34,899,468

31,527,938

4,426,999

25959491

145

Lagan Homes UK Group Ltd

31/12/2016

34,884,820

18,156,865

4,409,972

-7873732

146

Belfast International Airport Ltd

31/12/2016

34,797,000

31,096,000

611,000

72394000

147

Greiner Packaging Ltd

31/12/2016

34,625,676

35,855,513

2,778,096

13205383

148

James F McCue Ltd

30/11/2016

34,562,101

24,777,187

2,446,200

7594901

149

Bedeck Ltd

30/09/2016

34,503,216

35,522,463

1,135,034

6579805

150

M-B Truck and Van (NI) Ltd

31/12/2016

34,498,015

30,965,783

616,014

4326388

151

Seagoe Rose Ltd

31/12/2015

34,441,976

-2,579,504

-5483167

152

Dowds Electrical (Holdings) Ltd

31/03/2017

33,781,957

29,981,249

1,509,497

5293219

153

CFG Holdings Ltd

31/03/2017

33,767,211

33,530,667

16,754

5517493

154

Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Ltd

31/12/2016

33,325,000

29,370,000

5,062,000

16249000

155

Dillon Bass Ltd

30/06/2016

33,144,944

33,252,895

19,736

474188

156

Charles Tennant and Company (NI) Ltd

31/12/2016

33,070,195

32,448,007

2,959,543

17506854

157

JF & H Dowds Ltd

31/03/2017

32,973,984

29,753,398

1,508,294

5293120

158

Radius Housing Association Ltd

31/03/2011

32,957,629

2,203,667

44532806

159

UTV Ltd

31/12/2016

32,955,000

34,501,000

-17,577,000

3445000

160

Union Street (Lurgan) Ltd

30/04/2016

32,921,338

27,292,977

1,842,789

8574290

161

Ballinaskeagh Grains Ltd

30/04/2017

32,851,800

30,082,952

658,947

4221590

162

O & S Doors Ltd

31/12/2016

32,814,161

31,406,903

804,707

3205356

163

Cooneen Defence Ltd

02/12/2016

32,799,663

25,918,692

235,346

4824420

164

Budget Energy Ltd

30/06/2016

32,772,462

33,996,796

4,082,486

5571926

165

Bam Contractors (NI) Ltd

31/12/2016

32,585,001

42,047,340

2,283,773

3587694

166

Kilwaughter Holdings Ltd

30/04/2017

32,513,711

29,890,980

9,627,021

24098992

167

Harvey Group Plc

31/08/2016

32,202,608

34,258,199

326,434

4902807

Data provided by Dun & Bradstreet T: 0800 001 234

30

Net worth


At the heart of business in Ireland © 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

UB 200 168-200 Rank

Company Name

Account date

Turnover for latest year

Previous turnover

Pre-tax profit

Net worth

168

Wilsons of Rathkenny Ltd

31/12/2016

31,719,488

28,386,699

620,091

8023811

169

Montgomery Transport Ltd

30/09/2016

31,484,320

30,029,650

2,299,613

18344521

170

Praxis Care

31/03/2017

31,375,483

28,237,385

2,392,108

10980264

171

Geda Construction Llp

31/12/2016

31,354,728

27,937,116

6,188,150

5645392

172

Woodvale Construction Company Ltd

30/06/2016

31,350,860

360,103

3605081

173

TG Eakin Ltd

31/03/2017

31,129,219

27,746,451

18,096,414

27572070

174

John McQuillan (Contracts) Ltd

31/03/2017

31,043,695

31,805,707

1,213,045

10292113

175

The Baird Group Ltd

31/12/2016

30,954,606

28,518,051

365,823

9180712

176

Component Distributors Group Ltd

31/12/2016

30,913,801

28,429,673

640,377

3785104

177

Edwin May Ltd

30/09/2016

30,756,475

32,756,093

193,679

1675277

178

352 Medical Group Ltd

31/03/2017

30,717,536

31,234,461

-2,077,187

3648436

179

North West Silos Ltd

31/07/2016

30,715,960

35,120,861

56,163

1367409

180

Bsg Civil Engineering Ltd

31/12/2016

30,502,310

21,344,772

4,610,670

32707099

181

Fleet Financial Ltd

31/12/2016

30,422,000

25,152,000

1,112,000

5623000

182

John Woods (Lisglyn) Ltd

31/07/2016

29,995,455

32,733,090

837,160

10992008

183

Jmw Farms Ltd

30/09/2016

29,979,445

29,618,599

521,950

19023963

184

Lagan Building Contractors Ltd

31/03/2016

29,846,279

44,460,550

-3,616,419

339128

185

T & A Kernoghan (Holdings) Ltd

31/05/2015

29,842,216

25,516,609

18,032

4385725

186

Advanced Resource Managers Engineering Ltd

28/02/2017

29,643,000

30,889,000

225,000

4517000

187

The Mount Charles Group Ltd

29/09/2016

29,538,473

28,056,601

1,320,748

6491794

188

Corporate Catering Management Ltd

29/09/2016

29,538,473

28,056,601

1,309,162

3631466

189

Almac Sciences Ltd

30/09/2016

29,531,992

23,911,498

650,116

19184719

190

WD Irwin & Sons Ltd

02/04/2017

29,427,614

29,847,780

-186,126

783369

191

Ba Kitchen Components Ltd

31/03/2017

29,304,117

29,527,557

4,197,964

16110516

192

Moyle Interconnector Ltd

31/03/2017

29,297,000

34,622,000

18,282,000

91404000

193

Tracey Brothers Ltd

31/03/2017

29,154,138

18,578,679

1,792,194

11925496

194

T & A Kernoghan Ltd

31/05/2015

28,909,042

24,665,729

505,753

1262510

195

Kilwaughter Minerals Ltd

30/04/2017

28,880,150

27,057,032

9,874,877

24108762

196

Glenfarm Holdings Ltd

31/12/2003

28,777,000

29,452,000

-8,066,000

12119000

197

Communicorp UK Ltd

31/12/2016

28,688,000

28,227,000

2,343,000

4758000

198

Extraspace Solutions (UK) Ltd

31/12/2016

28,535,905

30,538,630

1,373,791

3140200

199

Springfarm Architectural Mouldings Ltd

28/02/2017

27,978,329

22,842,126

551,275

4176230

200

Imed (NI) Ltd

31/03/2017

27,904,256

26,326,496

4188714

This list contains some holding or subsidiary companies

Data provided by Dun & Bradstreet T: 0800 001 234

APRIL 2018

31


At the heart of business in Ireland Š 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

UB 200 ANALYSIS

The UB 200 shows continued growth Global data and analytics company Dun & Bradstreet has compiled the UB 200 list. Mark Preston, senior trade credit consultant, pulls out some key highlights of this year’s list and summarises the results

U

lster Business has partnered with Dun & Bradstreet for more than 25 years to provide an insight into the companies which are playing an important role in the Northern Ireland economy. Businesses are ranked by turnover and data includes pre-tax profit.

32

The UB 200 covers companies in Northern Ireland is an extension of Ulster Business Top 100, increasing this listing to the top 300.

registered in Northern Ireland and data is based on the most recent publicly filed accounts at the Companies Registry Office.

It’s likely that this list includes companies that will grow and make it into the Top 100 in future years. All companies included on the listing are

The list is simply a snapshot of 200 Northern Ireland companies, based on recent accounts filed to Companies House and ranked by turnover.


At the heart of business in Ireland © 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

UB 200 ANALYSIS

TURNOVER GROWTH DESPITE UNCERTAINTY Although lack of clarity around Brexit and the impact for the Irish borders is heightening political and economic uncertainty, more than 65% of companies in this year’s listing showed a growth in turnover, with a number revealing significant sales improvement. Overall growth is 9.5% year on year. Dun & Bradstreet’s latest report on small and medium enterprises found that 35% of business owners had cancelled or postponed expansion plans as a result of Brexit. Looking at these figures in the context of much-reported uncertainty around Brexit, this sales growth is very encouraging and continues the trend seen in last year’s analysis. Several of the large construction companies in the listing have seen increased turnover.

APRIL 2018

MULTIPLE FACTORS

READER NOTES

Turnover is just one indicator and the listing also includes net worth (total equity) and net profit figures.

Data is based on latest filed accounts and has been taken from Dun & Bradstreet’s Global Database, focusing on most recent public filings. The information was gathered during the first week of March, and provides a snapshot of companies registered in Northern Ireland, which have filed accounts.

Total equity of the UB 200 this year was £2,868m, a favourable increase on last year’s total. Total equity is a widely used measure of a company’s financial health. Total net profit of companies in this listing was £665m, with only 11 companies posting a net loss.

EMPLOYMENT The 200 companies in this year’s listing employed a total of 30,726 people, which shows an increase of just over 10% from last year.

ABOUT DUN & BRADSTREET Dun & Bradstreet provides data and analytics to help businesses manage their relationships with prospects, suppliers, clients and partners. Nearly 90% of the Fortune 500, and companies of every size around the world, rely on Dun & Bradstreet data, insights and analytics. ■ For more information visit www.dnb.co.uk or follow @dnbukteam

33


At the heart of business in Ireland © 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

SPONSOR FOREWORD

Supporting the engine room of the Northern Ireland economy By John Hansen, Partner in Charge, KPMG in Northern Ireland

K

PMG is proud to sponsor the Ulster Business UB 200. This annual listing shines a light on the companies which make a fundamental contribution to the Northern Ireland economy. If the importance of these names was ever in doubt, just take a look at the numbers. Collectively they account for over £9bn of turnover (an increase of nearly 10% on the previous year), £665m-worth of profits and employ over 30,000 people. Look down the list and you’ll see many familiar names from all corners of Northern Ireland and from every sector imaginable. There are companies, such as Montupet, which are the result of foreign direct investment; there are indigenous companies still under family ownership, such as MJM Marine and Walter Watson; and there are home grown companies now under overseas ownership such as Andor Technologies. As a cross-section of the Northern Ireland economy, the list tells a story of innovative, tenacious and outward-looking businesses which have the ability to compete with the best in the world. Indeed, many of them are already exporting their goods and services to a global audience, who are getting a flavour for the high levels of service and attention to detail which Northern Ireland companies can offer. KPMG has worked with many of these firms and it is with great pride that we have watched them make this list. Successful businesses don’t stand still – they evolve. All companies have a business cycle—from a start-up to a mature company, and each stage presents its own set of opportunities and challenges. At KPMG we understand what it takes for you to be

34

successful at every stage of your business cycle, whether you are looking to grow locally, expand internationally, plan for the next generation, or to exit your business.

We will help you navigate your challenges and you will gain access to KPMG’s global resources through a single point of contact - a trusted adviser to your company.

As trusted advisers, we are the perfect partner for the passion and dedication which drives entrepreneurs, family businesses and fast-growing companies alike.

It’s a local touch with a global reach. Congratulations to all the companies who have made the list – we wish you continued success. ■


© 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership


UB 200 ANALYSIS

1- Montupet

M

ontupet has been one of Northern Ireland's most successful manufacturers after taking over the former DeLorean site outside Belfast in 1989. Since then, the French company, which is now owned by Canadian family-run Linamar, has grown to a business employing around 600 staff with pre-tax profits of more than £13m and turnover just shy of £79m. The firm manufactures cast aluminium cylinder heads for petrol diesel engines used for car makers Ford, Peugeot, Citroen, Volvo, Fiat and Mazda. In 2015, the company announced a new £140m contract for the Dunmurry plant. The Montupet Group was purchased by Linamar through a “friendly” acquisition in February 2016. And it was said that a Montupet's £7m deal in 2016 with giant Jaguar Land Rover "could open up" further major deals in the coming years, after it fought off stiff competition from European rivals. It's making cylinder heads for one of the fastest growing car firms in the world - potentially worth tens of millions in future sales.

36

Montupet's Dunmurry plant sends its products to engine plants in the UK, France, Turkey, Thailand, Romania, Hungary, South Africa and China. Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said the company turned the vacant site left behind when car maker DeLorean shut its doors in 1982, into a fresh and thriving manufacturing base. “Montupet has made a massive success out of the old DeLorean site in west Belfast.” he said. “The company has managed to create one of the most advanced engine head facilities in the world. “It supplies the top motor vehicle manufactures in the UK and across Europe, and after being recently purchased by new Canadian owners, the hope is that this will see investment that will secure the site and potential look at expansion into the future. “The one thing with that company is the effort, time and resources that go in to improving what they do. And the investment in their staff. “They have one of the best apprenticeship schemes, and when you see the operation in

Belfast, they have management processes that mean a lot of the staff largely manage themselves and are more productive.” And he said the company had smoothly transitioned from its former management structure to its current operation. “In the last few years there has been a change in leadership in the factory, and they have managed to do that in a productive way. The previous management was wellliked, so it was important to do it in a smooth manner. “With the new owners, they don't like shocks, they don't want any big surprises, and they continue to quietly make their way in the world in a very successful manner.” And Mr Kelly said staff at the firm are able to work their way up from apprenticeships to management level. The larger parent group now consists of 58 manufacturing plants worldwide with a total workforce of 26,000 employees. The product range encompasses engine, transmission, driveline components and assemblies, and the brand Skyjack manufacturing scissor lifts and telescopic booms. ■


UB 200 ANALYSIS

33 - MJM Marine

A

s one of Northern Ireland's fastest growing firms MJM Marine has grown its reach across an array of different sectors. MJM Marine is MJM Group's main business, based in Newry, and headed by founder Brian McConville. It was set up in 1983 by Mr McConville, and carries out work for many of the world's top cruise liners, including Star Cruises. The fit-out specialist is seldom out of the headlines, whether it's landed new contracts or winning awards. The company has diversified and grown in influence, with Mr McConville one of just two Northern Ireland business leaders joining Prime Minister Theresa May on an international trade mission to China. And MJM's contract with Royal Caribbean Cruises and Azamara Cruises will see it bring the first ever cruise ship to Belfast to drydock in April.

Brian and Naoimh McConville of MJM Marine

In 2016, Mr McConville was named Businessperson of the Year in the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards.

The group has also diversified into property investment, and was behind a major transaction in 2016, taking on Newry’s Damolly Retail Park.

MJM Marine, by chief executive Gary Annett and chairman Brian McConville, was then named Overall Business of the Year at the awards a year later.

The group also bought fit-out business Mivan in 2014.

MJM Marine also triumphed in the Excellence in Export category. The group company also operates a specialist joinery division also provides a growing service to land-based commercial and private clients. One of the company’s most prestigious contracts involved Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. More recently MJM was the lead outfitting contractor aboard Norwegian Cruise Line vessels Pearl & Jade in Freeport Bahamas.

APRIL 2018

This year, the company has announced it's bringing in key luxury cruise ship The Azamara for refit in Harland & Wolff - a world first as fit-out companies usually travel to cruise ships, instead of a cruise ship coming to the fit-out firm.

"This is the first time any company within Royal Caribbean Cruises has used a UK shipyard for refit works of this scale and MJM is delighted to have been able to bring the vessel to Belfast for its revitalisation." The group has also bought the former Ballykelly Army and RAF base in Co Londonderry.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, MJM's Naoimh McConville, said:

MJM is also hoping that its work on the Ballykelly site will attract Heathrow Airport, which has put the site on a shortlist of possible locations for a hub outside London, in the event that it gets the go-ahead for a third runway.

"Azamara will take delivery of the ship this March in the Caribbean. The vessel will then reposition to Belfast for a four-month refit period under the guidance of MJM, where it will become the Azamara Pursuit, the third ship in the company's boutique-ship fleet.

And further afield, it has secured its first ever drydock works in China. The seven-figure deal with Star Cruises involved carrying out works on five decks of the Star Pisces, including the transformation of casinos, restaurants and shops. ■

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UB 200 ANALYSIS

52 - Kainos Software Ltd

K

ainos has grown up from a small Belfast business to being one of Northern Ireland's few listed companies. It's grown up from its Northern Ireland limited company, to being registered on the London Stock Exchange. It employs more than 1,000 staff. The business is a digital services company that provides information technology expertise across a number of sectors, particularly government, financial services and healthcare. Headed up by Co Antrim man Brendan Mooney, it's expanded its global reach from its south Belfast head office - still based at Upper Crescent - to locations across the globe. Mr Mooney said: “It has been another successful period for Kainos and I am particularly pleased with our strong sales execution which provides a solid platform for further growth. “To support this growth we have continued to expand nationally and internationally during 2017, opening three new offices in Birmingham, Frankfurt and Copenhagen. Brendan Mooney

“Looking forward, the future is exciting. The group’s pipeline of prospects continues to strengthen across all divisions.” More recent accounts for the firm's overall plc saw a 5% increase in pre-tax profits to £6.8m.

"We are looking at new premises so whether we opt for additional smaller offices, or a brand new complex - we are talking around that at the moment."

"There's nothing I or Kainos can do around Brexit so we are just taking a wait and see approach.” The company has also opened new offices in Birmingham and Frankfurt.

The firm also revealed a 2% increase in sales to £41.4m for the six months ending September 2017.

“There is a real vibrancy in the Queen's Quarter and a quarter of our staff are under 25 so it's a good place to be so we'd like to stay close."

And it's continuing to grow. Speaking in November, he said the company is seeking new offices for its Belfast workforce as growth continues.

"Sales performance is a good leading indicator for the rest of the year, and we now have over £63m of new contracts for national and international clients."

However, the commercial sector was the strongest growing segment in digital services.

He said growth in staff numbers "means our office space is maxed out".

Mr Mooney said the company was "pretty relaxed" about the impact of Brexit.

In 2016, Mr Mooney was also named EY Entrepreneur of the Year. ■

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Mr Mooney said the firm's digital services division was continuing to carry out work with UK Government clients.


UB 200 ANALYSIS

187 - Mount Charles Gavin Annon and Cathal Geoghegan of Mount Charles

M

ount Charles has grown into one of Northern Ireland's largest catering and outsourcing businesses. It's grown its turnover to almost £30m, according to its latest accounts, as it celebrates 30 years in business. The company was formed by chairman Trevor Annon, following his years working in the contract catering industry. After setting up the business in 1988, Mr Annon grew the company from a small family enterprise, into a company employing more than 2,000 workers. The business works across a range of sectors, including cleaning and catering. It's currently headed by managing director Cathal Geoghegan. The company also operates its own retail brands, and has built out its Fed & Watered cafe chain through the UK. It currently has branches at Belfast International, City of Derry and Exeter airports, and at the base of the Obel Building in Belfast. At the end of 2017, it revealed it had won

APRIL 2018

£37m worth of new contracts over the past year, increasing its turnover by 18%. The new contracts have seen Mount Charles’ turnover rise again, as it expands into the Republic. The food service, cleaning, security and vending company also secured Dublin-based contracts worth over €1.4m (£1.2m) with the Public Appointments Service, Ordnance Survey Ireland and Custom House, home to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. The company’s growth in 2016/17 has also seen employee figures grow by 200 to 2,200. Mount Charles has also landed new client wins in the UK, including with all centre firm Firstsource. The business has also won contracts with heavy equipment firm Terex, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), accountancy firm Deloitte, and Northern Regional College. In 2017, it was named one of Deloitte’s best managed companies, for the seventh

year running, and moved into a new £1.6m headquarters on the Ormeau Road in south Belfast. In March, it signed a £1.25m contract with the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS). The deal comes into effect in April, and runs for a two-year period. The company will provide cleaning services to all 40 NICTS sites. Speaking about the company's overall growth, managing director Cathal Geoghegan said: “In addition to our strong footing here in Northern Ireland, we are now aggressively targeting contracts in the Republic of Ireland, having secured a Dublin base from which to do business, and we see this market as having major scope for future expansion. “We have also been successful in generating new business in Great Britain, winning a contract worth over £500,000 with global company Firstsource across three of their regional sites.” And in 2017, Mount Charles announced it had won the contract to provide bar services at the hospitality tent at the Vauxhall International North West 200 for three years. ■

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Claire McFall, BDO Audit Director and Allen Reid, Finance Director of Henry Brothers pictured at a Henry Brothers construction site in Duncrue Street, Belfast

I

n December Northern Ireland construction giant Henry Brothers, unveiled a forward-looking brand ethos to position them favourably in a changing environment. The spirit of ‘Altogether Stronger’ connects every aspect of the company with a resolute commitment to deliver the best solutions possible for every client, every time, without fail. It is a proposition that has been some four decades in the making and has its genesis in the core values first set out by the Henry family. Collaboration has been at the centre of the rise of Henry Brothers, now part of the Henry Group, and has propelled them to an annual turnover of more than £70m with a staff complement of 200-plus employees across sites in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland. At BDO Northern Ireland, we have been proud to serve Henry Brothers as a trusted adviser. Their ethos is one that resonates strongly with our vision to be the leader for exceptional client service. Like them, we believe in delivering consistent high quality services when dealing with family owned businesses like Henry Brothers.

Advisory support powering Henry Brothers to next level SHARED VALUES We believe great things happen when partners share the same goals and values and focus on building long-term business relationships based on trust. BDO Northern Ireland invests time in getting to know our clients including all of the generations of the business and executive teams. For us, it is important to understand the individuals as well as their business aspirations and ethos. Today, Henry Brothers’ award winning work can be evidenced across a wide range of sectors in locations spread right through the UK. As the company’s ambition and capability has grown, we carefully scaled up the services we provide ensuring they had access to the professional expertise and insight needed at each step in their growth journey.

PROFESSIONAL AND RELIABLE ADVICE BDO Northern Ireland's experienced, cross firm and blended team knows that business compliance and advisory is more than ticking a box; it is about ensuring that every part of the organisation is fine-tuned to help support growth. Our relationship-based approach enables us to advise across a range of potential business scenarios, whether this involves funding growth, personal wealth creation or tax planning.

www.henrybrothers.co.uk 40

We have an in-depth understanding of the complex issues in fast-paced business and tax environments. Our team gives practical and direct advice, with tailored solutions that can save money and time, and reduce your

risk exposure. Our strategic tax planning expertise includes corporate tax, structuring of acquisitions and disposals, human capital, stamp taxes, VAT and capital gains tax.

CHANGING TIMES Adaptability has helped Henry Brothers stay on top of its game for 40 years and, like other forward-thinking construction companies, it is looking at the possible impacts of Brexit and other sectoral changes. The firm has engaged our Brexit planning taskforce team to help condense potential tax and legal changes into manageable scenarios that allow management to consider their business structures, cash flow, supply chains and regulation and compliance. Knowing where to start with Brexit planning can appear daunting, particularly with so many variables and unknown factors. Our taskforce is a multi-disciplinary team that draws on local and national expertise to guide businesses to anticipate, prepare for and respond to the likely risks and opportunities. Though we may not know exactly what challenges Brexit will bring, we can have faith in companies like Henry Brothers to move quickly and make our economy ‘altogether stronger'. ■ To find out how BDO Northern Ireland can help your business grow call us on 028 9043 9009 or visit http://www.bdoni.com


SME & family business


BELFAST LISBURN PORTADOWN

gmcgca.com

Expertise that makes a difference

SME & FAMILY BUSINESS

Starting out small and local... but growing up fast John Simpson takes a look at some of Northern Ireland's top locally and family-owned businesses helping to fuel the growth of the economy

T

here are 100 businesses registering accounts in Northern Ireland which, in the most recent recorded financial year, posted pre-tax profits of over ÂŁ4.3m. A year ago, in a similar piece of research, businesses only went into a list of the top

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100 firms, with pre-tax profits in excess of ÂŁ3.2m. That's an increased of around a third. Although the economy has been growing only slowly - by less than 3% - the performance of these locally reporting businesses has been better.

Despite the major contribution to the local economy by businesses owned outside NI for whom there are no published local NI accounts, there is an increasing awareness that locally registered enterprises, innovation businesses and new firms are making a growing and major contribution to the local scene.


Expertise that makes a difference

BELFAST LISBURN PORTADOWN

gmcgca.com

SME & FAMILY BUSINESS

Northern Ireland is not one of the most thrusting regions of the UK but its locally reporting businesses have been performing positively. By inference, it looks as if the performance of firms which report at a UK level has been less successful. Of the best 50 businesses for whom NI business results, measured by pre-tax profits, can be assessed, through the available company accounts, it is reassuring that 24 are locally owned and controlled. In an expanded list of the 100 businesses for which this data is available, the number locally owned rises to 55. Many of the businesses now earning the largest pre-tax profits can trace their origins back to much smaller beginnings. The names of the more successful are well known but presented as a group, the diversity, expertise and innovation is impressive. In a list of the Northern Ireland-owned largest profit makers there is little surprise to find (ranked by pre-tax profit).

Northern Ireland-owned largest profit makers Company

Pre-tax profit

NI Water

£103m

Norbrook Holdings

£49m

W&R Barnett

£36m

Belfast Harbour

£36m

Almac Group

£27m

SHS Group

£25m

LCC Group (Lissan)

£21m

John Henderson

£20m

FP McCann

£19m

TG Eakin

£18m

Each of these businesses recorded pre-tax profits of over £18m in the most recent year. Of this group, eight can trace their development from much smaller beginnings. A history of business development in the past 50 years would identify the drive and persistence of the individuals who ‘came up the hard way’. The success of the Norbrook group owes much to the personal vision of the late Lord

APRIL 2018

Lord Ballyedmond

Ballyedmond (formerly Eddie Haughey) whose talents combined skills in marketing and exporting alongside his early interest and training in other pharmaceutical plants. His widow and two adult sons now sit on the board. For the Barnett group, which now brings together a diverse range of different businesses, some in NI and others at international destinations, William Barnett (snr) was a formative influence. In the business, his son now plays a critical role alongside a major team of professional managers. The influence of William Barnett extends much further than the businesses which he now owns. As a major port user over a period of years he was an influential participant as a Harbour Commissioner in the development of the port of Belfast. Two of this group of successful businesses demonstrate impressive performances in product development linked to medical technology. Almac was the outcome of the personal involvement of Allen McClay who had enjoyed earlier success, with his partner John King, in building up the business that

Many of the businesses now earning the largest pre-tax profits can trace their origins back to much smaller beginnings. The names of the more successful are well known but presented as a group, the diversity, expertise and innovation is impressive.

became Galen. Galen was sold to American investors but Allen McClay used some of his capital to buy parts of the former Galen network, established Almac as a research vehicle for well-targeted cancer treating drugs, and today it is internationally recognised. After the death of Mr McClay, this company continues to grow and is linked with a charitable trust in the McClay name. >

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BELFAST LISBURN PORTADOWN

gmcgca.com

Expertise that makes a difference

SME & FAMILY BUSINESS

Allen McClay

In a separate business success story, with rather lower profile publicity, Tom Eakin has gained recognition in the medical world in the design, manufacture and sale of specialised medical equipment for use in stoma and wound care. The Eakin group, based near Comber, now has senior personnel from the second generation of the family.

The evidence on the development of local companies which have grown to a credible size is reassuring. While the NI economy is performing less than adequately, this middle tier of locally owned businesses demonstrates strong characteristics in innovation and marketing that points to noteworthy achievements.

Northern Ireland is home to a number of successful distribution companies who have been competing with some of the major national groups. SHS Group, John Henderson Holdings and LCC (formerly Lissan Coal Company) have all added to their business networks and turnover to retain important segments of market share.

A more difficult question emerges alongside the success of this remarkable group of local business entrepreneurs. Is there an explanation for the dichotomy of an impressive list of achievements sitting alongside a performance record that suggests that there are too few new businesses with their ambitious owners when compared with other regions?

In the construction industry there have been success stories and, particularly in the recent recession, some closures. Firms maintaining an enviable trading record, with contract work at home and elsewhere in GB have included FP McCann, John Graham, Heron Brothers and McAleer and Rushe. John Graham just missed the top 10 list with pretax profits of £16m, while Heron Brothers recorded pre-tax profits of £13m and McAleer and Rushe showed £10m.

There are several possible explanations. First, the culture to encourage innovative new businesses may be inadequate. Too much emphasis is given to professional careers in public services which then attracts people who might otherwise have entrepreneurial ambitions. Second, there may be just as many potential entrepreneurs but, living in a region with a tradition of high emigration levels (including to universities), proportionately NI losses out in a form of ‘brain drain’.

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Into this group must be added the loss of potential business start-ups as a by-product of the political instability affecting many for the last 40 years. A third part of the explanation for a low level of demonstrated entrepreneurship may lie in a societal bias against the risk taking of self-employment. Repeated reminders that three out of four potential business start-ups will not survive is enough to tip the balance between selfemployment (and business start-up) and having a job as an employee. Whatever the explanations, NI would have a more diverse and successful private sector if more capable people followed that pathway. There are other participants in a powerful group of small and medium sized businesses (but too few) which are succeeding in NI. That includes well-known names such as Kainos, First Derivatives, Randox and Dunbia. Nearly all of these businesses have a close relationship with strong management ambitions. Now we need more of them. ■


RECRUITMENT

How SMEs can win the war for talent an online application is accepted. Make the application process warm and inviting ‘contact Michael in HR to find out more’. Think experience not process. Treat every applicant as if they are the one. Ensuring that potential candidates have a great application experience should be top of your list. At present, most organisations are losing more than 50% of candidates due to competition. Taking time to speak with someone and thanking them for their interest will reduce drop outs (most large corporates won’t do this).

Justin Rush

A

report from the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre (EPC) outlined some very concerning trends in the labour market in Northern Ireland. Directors of SMEs should take time and consider these findings. In summary: The labour market will become even more competitive. Baseline projections are that an additional 32,000 jobs a year will be created between now and 2026. The upper line scenario is 87,000. The high demand areas remain unchanged. Professional, scientific and technical, information and communication, support services, and healthcare. These remain the hardest to fill jobs.

APRIL 2018

800 additional STEM graduates are required locally every year In Northern Ireland we have an increasing demand for STEM graduates, however we presently have a growing under-supply. By 2026 we will need an additional 8,700 graduates to meet projected demand. If you are running an SME business in the local market at present, it is likely you are facing the challenge of appointing the right talent to meet your businesses objectives. The activities of larger organisations with significant budgets and dedicated teams, can make it difficult for you to reach your audience and position your offering. This is the advice I give my clients: Make it easy to apply. This may seem like a no-brainer but some larger organisations require 30 or more items to be entered before

Do not switch off your recruitment activity. The recruitment market is cyclical, and many larger entities channel their activities towards certain times of the year. Think about how you can promote opportunities and drive engagement throughout the year. Think medium-term. Building a pipleline of future talent through placements, internships and temporary work assignments is a great way to build your employer brand within a narrow pool ie STEM students. Partner with a suitable recruiter to access new talent. You may want to avoid the financial cost of using a recruitment agency, but you will gain better value if you take time to build an effective relationship. Having a dedicated representative on the market promoting your offering, especially to those relocating or returning, will provide you with first option on fresh talent. ■ Justin Rush is Director at Belfast-based Abacus Group. He specialises in advising businesses on research, advice and strategy on talent. He can be contacted via justin@abacus.jobs

45


BELFAST LISBURN PORTADOWN

gmcgca.com

Expertise that makes a difference

SME & FAMILY BUSINESS

Why does business succession to the next generation so often fail? Susan Dunlop, partner at accountancy firm GMCG Chartered Accountants, looks at some of the key challenges faced by family business owners wanting to transfer to the next generation

R

esearch has consistently shown that a high proportion of family businesses do not survive the second generation and even fewer survive to the third generation. It is clear that succession and success therefore may not be synonymous. The reasons for this are varied but without doubt the principal cause is a lack of foresight and planning. Succession planning is one of the biggest challenges that any family business must face if it is to continue to prosper into the future. It’s never too soon to start planning for succession as the process may take years to implement. Unexpected events are often the trigger for succession planning, such as death or illness but this reactive rather than proactive approach may lead to the downfall of the business.

SOME PROBLEMS FACED WHEN CONSIDERING SUCCESSION • Distinction between management succession and ownership succession - they are not necessarily one and the same.

Susan Dunlop, partner at GMcG Chartered Accountants

• The existence of a dominant owner who is unwilling to contemplate 'letting go' or plan for change. • An over-reliance upon skills and knowledge of the owner making it difficult for anyone to replace them. • Tax implications of succession.

• Lack of individuals in the succeeding generation of the family with sufficient skills, experience, knowledge or motivation to be able to take over the running of the business. • Assuming that the business should be passed to children, when other options may be more appropriate. • Owners’ reluctance to recognise differing abilities of children working in the business.

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• Identifying how the retiring family members' aspirations on retirement will be met, both financially and their future role in the business.

MANAGEMENT SUCCESSION Many business owners assume that they will pass management of the business to a member of the family. The business will

have grown and prospered based on the family name and the continuation by a family member is synonymous with common values, commitment and loyalty. However, when deciding who is to be successor, it is important to be objective. Some points to consider in choosing a management successor include: • Does the proposed successor have the necessary experience both in the sector and commercially? • Does the proposed successor have credibility in the business and do they possess the necessary skills and characteristics, for example commitment, competence, ambition, communication and leadership skills?


Expertise that makes a difference

BELFAST LISBURN PORTADOWN

gmcgca.com

SME & FAMILY BUSINESS

• Will the successor be able to preserve the key success aspects of the business after succession? For example, unique selling points, relationships with suppliers formed by the founder of the business.

It should not be assumed that everyone needs an equal share. It is often seen to be fairer for the management successor to have a larger share in the business than those who are less active.

Difficulties can frequently arise where siblings have worked alongside each other in the business and one is ‘chosen’ above another to lead the business. This is one of the most challenging aspects for business owners, where communication and forward planning are essential to avoid conflict.

Alternative arrangements can include equalisation of ownership with the differentiation in role reflected solely in the remuneration packages. In practice, this often leads to a resentful and disillusioned management successor, particularly where other financial arrangements are an option.

A situation often arises where there is no suitable successor within the family ranks. Alternative options include consideration of individuals, either within or outside of the business or to sell the business to a third party.

ACTIONS

OWNERSHIP SUCCESSION The management and ownership of the business are not necessarily one and the same. The ownership succession often depends on the extent of other assets held by the owner, thereby enabling alternative financial arrangements to benefit other children.

APRIL 2018

The following points should be considered and acted upon well in advance of any proposed succession: • A written succession plan which should include matters such as distribution of ownership, identity of the new leader or leaders, training requirements, roles of other key members of the business during the transition, mechanics for the purchase or sale of stakes in the business, procedures for monitoring the process and dealing with disputes and problems and a timetable of the stages of transition.

• Discuss the tax implications of the succession process with your accountant at an early stage. Forward planning is essential in order to minimise any tax liabilities that may arise, as any transfer of a business may be subject to inheritance tax and/or capital gains tax. • The founder of the business should plan for their source of income on retirement. In conclusion, whatever path regarding succession is chosen, it is clear that the process needs detailed attention for many years preceding the retirement or death of the present owner. Failure is an all too common occurrence that can simply be avoided by forward planning, regular interaction with your accountant and thorough communication with family members and other employees. ■ Susan is a partner at GMcG Chartered Accountants, an eight partner firm with more than 90 staff across its three offices in Belfast, Lisburn and Portadown. The firm delivers expert advice and support in the areas of audit and business advisory, tax solutions, forensic accounting and investigation, along with corporate finance and international. Susan Dunlop can be contacted at dunlops@gmcgca.com or on 028 9031 1113.

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PROFILE

Roger Pannell, managing director Unicorn Group, Rory Clarke, head of acquisition, Danske Bank, Jim Kirkwood, acquisition manager, Danske Bank

Danske Bank supports investment in Unicorn W

hen the Unicorn Group was announced as the buyer of the former Coca Cola factory site in Lambeg, outside Lisburn, it was viewed as an ambitious move by a fast-growing company that few in the Northern Ireland market knew much about. First founded in 1997 as Unicorn Containers, Unicorn Group is now a conglomerate of manufacturing companies that creates and distributes a diverse range of innovative, ethical

48

products, including medical and recycling bins, washroom products and floor tiles. As a predominantly export based company it is perhaps no surprise that Unicorn is not a household name in its home market. But over the last number of years the business has gone through a period of rapid growth through sales growth and company acquisitions, acquiring six separate trading businesses and growing them into highly profitable enterprises. Now employing 85 people across three

businesses, Unicorn’s growth trajectory led the group’ to decide to make its major investment and move its existing manufacturing sites in Lisburn and Markethill to the 17.5 acre site that Coca Cola left in 2008. “We were rapidly outgrowing our existing facilities and the Lambeg site is an opportunity for us to have all our business production and administration in one location,” says Roger Pannell, managing director of the Unicorn Group.


PROFILE

"This relocation has the added benefit of providing existing and new staff with the opportunity to develop their careers within the expanded business." The relocation will take place over the next six months as the site is redeveloped.

Danske Bank took time to properly understand what we were doing and the timescale we were trying to achieve it in. Roger Pannell Unicorn Group

FUNDING SUPPORT When the company decided to make the acquisition of the former Coca-Cola site and its 240,000 sq ft premises, it sought out an innovative approach to funding support that had not been made available by its existing bank at the time. After a competitive process, the company chose to move to Danske Bank, not just to fund the investment but for all of its business banking needs. “Danske Bank took time to properly understand what we were doing and the timescale we were trying to achieve it in. They listened and clearly identified what we needed before coming straight back to us with a tailored package. Danske made the deal possible,” Mr Pannell said. The investment and working capital package offered, the speed the offer was made at, Danske Bank’s technological capabilities and its approach to relationship management all combined to impress Unicorn’s managing director. “I just felt Danske Bank really understood our business. They took time to ask the right

APRIL 2018

questions but they didn’t drag the process out for a long time.

in Northern Ireland who feel they have taken their business as far as they can.

“The interest they showed and the speed of action meant I felt they were really on board. They also had a great handle on the technology side of things so the integration with our systems made it a really easy process.”

“We are looking for companies who have products that could be exported and whose owners want to hand it on to a local player so the workforce is retained,” he adds.

Jim Kirkwood, Danske Bank acquisition manager, was the man driving that process. He says the ambitions of the company were clear from the outset. “This is an acquisitive company that saw an opportunity to consolidate its premises and at the same time lay the foundations for the future growth of its businesses. It is exactly the type of company that Danske Bank wants to support,” he said. “We were happy to support Unicorn Group in the transaction and were pleased that the company was confident enough to move its entire banking relationship to us. We hope it will be a successful long-term relationship.”

GROWTH CHALLENGES Roger Pannell admits that there is a lot of work to do on the Lambeg site but he is clearly excited by the possibilities it brings for future expansion. Unicorn is planning to market the office, warehouse and production space it isn’t using on both a short and long term basis, with space ranging from individual offices to standalone buildings. “It’s a big site and we are only going to be occupying part of it initially. The plan is to rent out some space but there is plenty of space for us to grow into as the business grows,” Mr Pannell said. “One of the reasons for the deal was that we wanted to bring all of our businesses together in one site after having made a number of acquisitions, but we are also interested in making more.” Specialising in business to business companies, Mr Pannell says the group is keen to hear from owners of some of the many good companies

We were happy to support Unicorn Group in the transaction and were pleased that the company was confident enough to move its entire banking relationship to us. Jim Kirkwood Danske Bank

Unicorn sells to the EU, the Middle East, Australia, India and South America and is also considering acquisitions beyond Northern Ireland, having previously bought companies in Belgium and England. But moving to the new site is only one part of the growth puzzle, says the managing director. “In moving to the site we want to create a good place to work with a campus feel. We are keen to recruit good people who want to work in an ambitious company in a really attractive location and pleasant environment.” Danske Bank’s acquisition team is based across Northern Ireland and is responsible for developing new banking relationships with successful and ambitious trading businesses. The team has already secured a number of new banking relationships this year, such as Finnebrogue, Willis Insurance, Orby Investment and Errigal Contracts. To contact Rory Clark head of acquisition, call 07423 439377 or email rory.clarke@danskebank.co.uk. ■

49


INTERVIEW

Further NI expansion in sight for Specsavers T here's room for a few more Specsavers stores across Northern Ireland, boss Dame Mary Perkins tells Ulster Business.

And the co-founder of the high street optician, and the UK's first self-made female billionaire, says the firm's Northern Ireland's customer service is engrained in the DNA here. “We aren't the same as normal retailers, and marrying that, the fashion with the medical side. It's sort of a funny marrying up,” she told Ulster Business. “We don’t get the sort of downturns that normal retailers get, so we have good year-onyear percentage increases. “We measure customer satisfaction and how customers feel. We can't teach Northern Ireland anything. They are so good, and I keep saying that we must know their secret. It's in the DNA and people just want to help. They really are superb.”

Dame Mary Perkins (second from right) at the new Strabane Specsavers store

“We realised that people like finding somewhere easy to park. It's quite a new thing.”

Specsavers has been based in Northern Ireland for more than 25 years, and grown its shops numbers to 22.

Dame Mary says Specsavers is also now introducing new MRI technology to its shops, and so-called optical coherence tomography.

The 74-year-old says that the firm isn't at saturation, yet, in Northern Ireland, and that more shops could follow.

And the contact lens market is continuing to grow for the company, according to Dame Mary.

“I would think there is room for a few more,, but we are very careful. They are all independently-owned companies... probably three or four (more),” she said.

“Contact lenses are vastly growing, and there are so many types. There are multi-focal... which has opened up lenses for the older person. Contact lenses and the hearing side are the biggest growth (areas) at the moment.

“Our biggest expansion is on the medical side... there is a terrific movement from the health side.” Speaking about the latest store in Strabane, based at Pavillion Retail Park, she said: “That is more recent. We are more of a community optometrist, and we like small community towns. We are part of the community.

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“The other thing that is growing is what we call Healthcall. We get optometrists to go out to peoples' homes. That is a big growth (area).” Speaking about the impact of Brexit, Dame Mary said the business would largely avoid any impact on day-to-day operations.

“As far as our business is concerned, it doesn't make much difference. I wouldn't say it would affect our business at all. We work in each country that we are in. It's self sufficient and owned by people in that country. “The only thing that affected us as a company as a whole is currency rates.” “I live in Guernsey, we have 500 support staff here. It's a big financial centre, but everyone is wondering how it is going to affect the finance industry. “The IoD bring this up, even in Guernsey. Each business will have to look at where they are. For us, it doesn't make much of a difference.” Specsavers opened its first NI store in 1992 at Ann Street in Belfast city centre, and has since expanding to its larger spot at Victoria Square. There are 22 stores in Northern Ireland located in high streets and shopping centres with more than 600 people employed by the firm, including store directors. ■


Securing talent in a buoyant market By John Moore, Managing Director, Hays Northern Ireland

I

have talked previously about the increased pace of permanent hiring across professional services, finance and technology. It’s not limited to senior appointments either – for example, we are seeing strong demand for newly qualified finance professionals, with one to three years’ experience. This pace of hiring in many sectors in NI has taken hold so that, where there was once a higher level of candidate availability in the job market, employers now need to move much more quickly to secure excellent people. The reality today is that many employers - even very highly regarded organisations - are no longer in control, and recruitment strategies need to be adapted to reflect the new challenges. So, in addition to the points made in my last article, companies of all size should also consider the following recommendations: Communication at interview. Dedicate the first 10-15 minutes promoting the opportunity

and the environment to allow time for the candidate to relax and perform at their best. Offer process. Understand in entirety, i.e. beyond the basic financial package, what further elements are needed for the offer to be accepted. Make sure you maintain line of sight on the offer process so that it is formalised and communicated promptly. Make your offer promptly. Candidates usually need to work a notice period, but you should have made your offer within five days of the final interview, or less. Notice period. Maintain communication and invest in the future relationship. Perhaps arrange for your new appointee to meet the team at the start of their notice period. A lot of people have a change of heart in their notice periods, not just because they are made a counter offer by their employer but because employers make a case for staying. So, stay in touch with them every week and empathise to show you understand it is a big move.

Forecast requirements. For all businesses there is a degree of reactive recruitment, but many people will know when typically during the year they will need new staff. Communicate your potential needs to your HR team or recruiter to allow initial talent-pooling so that the process can be commenced as soon as needed. SMEs and corporate firms have already indicated (Hays Market Trends and Salary Guide) that 65% of them will hire staff throughout 2018. That clearly means that the process to attract job seekers in a buoyant market can’t be prolonged nor can it be left until the last minute. ■ To find out more about Hays Northern Ireland log on to hays.co.uk/ni, follow us on Twitter @ HaysN_Ireland or call 028 3844 5800.

Next generation of entrepreneurs sharpen their skills at Titanic Belfast

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oung Enterprise ambassadors launched this year’s ‘Big Celebration’ which saw more than 500 budding entrepreneurs who set up businesses with Young Enterprise this year mark their achievements at The Big Celebration ’18. Young entrepreneurs from across Northern Ireland got together at the landmark Titanic Belfast on Friday, March 23, as the charity showcased their work to nurture the next generation of business leaders. Throughout the morning the young people participated in hands-on workshops focused on sharpening the skills they developed through the Young Enterprise Company and Team programmes, in order to best prepare them for the world of work and business startup. Young Enterprise chief executive Carol Fitzsimons MBE said: “We set these young people a challenge back in September to start up a business, and since then we’ve seen some extraordinary ideas and innovative companies. The annual event is a way of congratulating the students who have taken part in the company and team programmes’.

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Students Orla Harney, Aquinas Grammar School and Ethan Mercer, Belfast Boys’ Model School with Charity Ambassador Pete Snodden, Young Enterprise Chief Executive Carol Fitzsimons MBE, Young Enterprise Chairman Ciaran Sheehan and Charity Ambassador Bill Wolsey Charity Ambassador Cathy Martin

The Big Celebration regional winners of the competition were announced on the day and those winners will go forward to the prestigious Northern Ireland Final in June at Belfast City Hall. Check out our Facebook page to see the full list of winners. ■


Business start-ups


BUSINESS START-UPS

Start as you mean to go on With a surge in new Northern Ireland businesses being set up, John Mulgrew looks at how start-ups are getting a foot on the ladder

I

n less than a year one of Northern Ireland's newest start-up hubs is almost at bursting point – with some companies having already flown the nest.

“A typical company – they have started off small, and then grown. They will then outgrow the space, and someone will come and replace them.”

After sitting empty for five years, the Ormeau Baths in Belfast was turned into a workspace and hub in June last year - backed by Jon Bradford, Mark Dowds, Aaron Taylor and Steve Pette.

The hub also hosts business accelerators, Propel and Ignite, run by Invest NI.

“There has definitely been a rising tide of a higher quality companies coming through in Northern Ireland over the last five or six years.”

Aaron Taylor, managing partner Frankly, and co-founder of Ormeau Baths, said: “The Ormeau Baths is going really well, and we are at 90-95% occupancy.”

“We anticipated it would be slow, but we had 35-40% occupancy on the day we opened. We are in this for the long haul. “Our ethos, is to create an environment, and community-led environment, and help businesses to grow. “There are lots of places around town, like Catalyst Inc (formerly the Northern Ireland Science Park) helping technology companies expand into new markets.

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“At the minute, my time is spent as an adviser to a couple of companies in Belfast, and helping companies find ways of making them more efficient. “Looking at the quality of companies here, as far as the concept of ideas goes, we are as strong as anywhere.

And with a 2.2% rise in the number of businesses being set up in Northern Ireland in the last year, it's helping get some of the most forward-thinking businesses and entrepreneurs take flight.

The ambitious hub offers a working space to small start-ups and entrepreneurs, a support environment for the sharing of ideas and access to business accelerator programmes.

Northern Ireland. And with Brexit, people have to be more hungry.

Adrian Doran

But he said Northern Ireland businesses must look outwards in order to expand and develop. “At very early stage, one area we struggle with is ambition. In an isolated island, we tend to not look outside Northern Ireland. A lot of what you base your business on, is what you can see.

One of the success stories already coming out of the start-up hub is Neurovalens. It's developed Modius – a headset which it claims will revolutionise weight loss.

“We want people in here who are hungry, passionate, want to be part of a community and want to succeed. It's all about a mindset and being ambitious.”

And for Mr Taylor, getting a business up-andrunning here - particularly those working in the so-called 'knowledge economy' - is about a great concept, and strong ambition.

Start-up successes over the last few years include See.Sense – a bike light firm which has grown into a hugely business selling products across the globe.

“Know what you are going to do, and then execute it. You can definitely see there are more opportunities by looking outside

One of those setting up her new business at Ormeau Baths, and getting assistance from Propel and Ignite, is Becca Hume.


BUSINESS START-UPS

Jon Bradford, Aaron Taylor, Sarah Friar and Steve Pette at the Ormeau Baths

Coming from a background in design, and after studying a Masters at Ulster University, she first came up with her company TapSoS.

“It's really useful. In the Baths, there are so many events, and you never know who is walking through the door.”

It's a mobile app which allows users to access the emergency services, non-verbally.

She said the accelerator programmes have given the business a cash-injection, along with free office space for a period of time, to help give it a kick-start.

“I studied sign language at night classes, and started learning first-hand the frustrations that the deaf community has”, Ms Hume said. “The app offers non-verbal solutions, and identifies, where you are at and what's wrong. It allows people who can't verbally communicate to interact with the emergency services.” Speaking about the Ormeau Baths, she said:

APRIL 2018

Also helping to craft start-ups of all shapes and sizes is Barclays Eagle Labs – also based at the Ormeau Baths. Adrian Doran is head of corporate banking for Barclays in Northern Ireland. “We’ve been really impressed at the quality of high growth businesses that have chosen to

set up in Ormeau Baths,” Mr Doran said. “Start-ups have completely different needs to larger companies - they might have a great business idea but sometimes they lack the resources or business networks that established companies have, and that’s the sort of practical support where we can help. “For instance our eco-system manager Lisa Bailie is on site to help steer companies to the right corporate finance advisor to help raise private equity, or the right lawyer to advise on IP. And in terms of start-up cash, he said many of these companies are equity funded, rather than debt funded “so our role is much more than just a funder”. >

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BUSINESS START-UPS

“Typically we’re acting more a business mentor than a traditional banker,” he said.

“We also run two programmes, Propel and Ignite, which are designed to help entrepreneurs with international ambition to scale up their business quickly.

A lot of companies (at Ormeau Baths) will mostly be technology business - there’s a nice mixture of companies, including those with rapid growth trajectory.

“There are currently 30 companies on these programmes.”

Aaron Taylor

Speaking about what it can offer businesses starting out, Tracy Meharg, Invest NI executive director of business solutions said: “Invest NI provides a range of financial and advisory support to start-ups with export focused business ideas.

Mr Taylor added: “We need people who we can emulate. We are still a bit behind in terms of hunger. “In New York, one of the firms has raised close to £20m. Their turnover is seven figures a month, and they are at a different level, and have only been going on a few months. “The best companies I've seen are just incredibly tight. “My day job is around corporate innovation, and working with blue chip, corporate

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clients, and I split my time between the US and London. “A lot of companies (at Ormeau Baths) will mostly be technology business there's a nice mixture of companies, including those with rapid growth trajectory.” Elsewhere, Catalyst Inc plays host to some of the fastest growing technology firms in Northern Ireland.

That includes IT firm Novosco, which has grown rapidly into a business boasting a turnover of more than £20m. And according to the latest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA), there were 71,615 firms registered to pay VAT or PAYE tax in 2017. That's up 2.2% in the space of a year, and marks the third consecutive year of increase following a period of decline from 2008 to 2014. The largest increases in the number of businesses since 2016 were in construction, with 355, and production, on 260. But it's not just 'knowledge economy' businesses helping lead the way for small start-ups in Northern Ireland. Food firms such as Dungannon's Ispini are winning major awards, just months after being set up. It was one of Northern Ireland's top food firms walking away with a top three-star award at the national Great Taste Awards last year. Other victors included the multi-award winning Hannan Meats in Moira, Co Down, which specialises in salt-aged beef. ■


Bleary Business & Community Centre

INSPIRE INNOVATE INVEST

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough is home to global leaders, many of whom started from small beginnings. Bleary Business & Community Centre, by nurturing start-ups and small companies, is an integral part of the eco-system that supports local economic growth. The centre provides shared office space for small businesses, provision for community activity, workshops, events and training. It is home to StudySeed CIC who provide tuition and revision courses for subjects at all levels.

flexible options from permanent full-time to hot desks with packages to suit each individual business needs. Qualifying businesses will have the option for a 50% rental reduction in the first quarter. Meeting rooms can be hired on an hourly basis

With a thriving community many bespoke activities and events take place and there is the continuing potential for local entrepreneurs to engage with the community to grow their business by providing these activities and services.

The centre boasts high end meeting facilities including free fast broadband, a 60� interactive smart screen TV and fully fitted kitchen. Businesses based in the Centre can benefit from the synergies of working with and alongside other entrepreneurs, allowing each company to grow and upscale in a competitive market.

Situated in a central location it is a short driving distance from Lurgan, Banbridge, Portadown and Craigavon, the A1 dual carriageway and M1 motorway with access to public transport links. Office, desk and workshop space is available for rent in a series of

A business postal address, a dedicated landline and access to Council led Business Support Programmes are all benefits of working in the centre.

For more information or arrange to see the space available to rent contact: Catherine McNeill t: 028 3831 2433 | blearybcc@armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk


PROFILE

Entrepreneur

of the

month

PHILIP MCMICHAEL, MANAGING DIRECTOR, AMI How are things? Business is going very well at the moment. IT security has moved up the order of priorities for many companies and as AMI is uniquely placed to help organisations to safely and securely retire their old IT equipment we have benefited from this. We have undergone substantial growth in the last 12 months and we have twice the number of employees that we did three years ago. There are also lots of new opportunities in the pipeline; it’s an exciting time for the business. How did you get started in the industry? I grew up in Ballymoney, where my father had a small menswear shop. Working there over the summers made me want to work for myself; I always had a plan to look for opportunities to build a business as an owner. AMI has its origins in a computer retail business I worked in. One of our customers asked if we offered IT disposal services and the current business grew out of that opportunity. When I saw the opportunity develop, I made the most of it. Typically, who are your clients or customers? We don’t promote specifically who our clients are due to the security of the service we provide. Without being too specific, our clients are typically the most security conscious organisations out there. We work with 25% of Ireland’s top 200 ICT-user organisations, including data centres, banks, blue chip corporations, international tech companies, pharmaceutical

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manufacturers and government departments. Everything we do is focused on client security. As well as disposing of data safely and securely we also advise them on what they should and shouldn’t do from an information security perspective. Do you enjoy what you do, and what in particular? I really enjoy working in the IT industry, it’s a fast-paced sector and it’s exciting to be at the forefront of the latest developments. I’m particularly passionate about information security and it is this passion that has taken AMI in its current direction. A number of years ago, we made a decision to focus on accreditation and being the best from a security point of view. This decision really helped the business. AMI now ranks among the top seven companies audited worldwide by ADISA, of honours for the processes that we have in place. It has been both challenging and rewarding to build up a team and work with them to finesse a service for our clients. Perhaps the thing I enjoy the most is working closely with our clients to ensure that the service we provide meets and usually exceeds their expectations. What is the most difficult part of your job? Having been working in this field for almost 20 years, I would like to think I am on top of most parts of the job. However every day still presents new challenges. I’d say the most difficult part is managing my time and

working out which parts of my role to pass onto other members of the team – to try not to be involved in every little decision. Multi-tasking and juggling multiple commitments is also another daily challenge that I’m sure a lot of business owners can relate to! The calendar app on my iPhone is invaluable for helping me to cross off items on my to-do list.

What are the challenges facing your sector, and the economy in general? I think in the IT retirement industry the biggest problem is still a lack of focus on security from other industry players. Educating potential customers about the inherent risks of failure to properly dispose of old IT equipment is also a real challenge. However with the GDPR regulations coming into place, we would hope there will be a refocus on data security from clients. While the economy overall is strong there are some uncertainties on the horizon. With Brexit no one is entirely sure what will happen. But with bases in Dublin and Belfast, we are well placed to make the most of any opportunities which may arise. Aside from this, the current impasse in Stormont doesn’t benefit anyone in Northern Ireland, especially not local businesses. ■


BUSINESS START-UPS

The voice of enterprise

Gordon Gough, chief executive of Enterprise Northern Ireland

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nterprise Northern Ireland continues to act as a powerful voice for the enterprise support, microenterprise and small business sectors. Our new website is a new digital platform for our members and enterprise support stakeholders. It shows all the content and social media from all of our members across Northern Ireland. And our Enterprise Champions initiative will eventually see Enterprise Northern Ireland work with MLAs from each main political party to champion the enterprise, microenterprise and small business sectors. In terms of support, the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund - a specialist loan fund created to support smaller businesses, has provided more than £6m in new loans since it was launched four years ago. To date

APRIL 2018

the Fund is estimated to have helped create over 150 new jobs and additional sales of almost £30m. The Fund is managed by Ulster Community Finance (UCF) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. And, since its inception in October 2013, Enterprise Northern Ireland Start Up Loans has issued over 600 loans, with a total capital value of £4.2m. The Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund and Enterprise Northern Ireland Start Up Loans are at the heart of the business support offered by Enterprise Northern Ireland members. In addition, the Northern Ireland Business Start Up programme, delivered by Enterprise Northern Ireland members on behalf of councils has just reached 1,000 new business start-ups since the programme commenced in September 2017.

So, what lies ahead for the remainder of 2018? Key issues for economic development organisations will be to continue to develop innovative business support interventions that meet the needs of the small business community in Northern Ireland. For Enterprise Northern Ireland members that will mean a continuation of innovative service delivery and new products and processes underpinned by the Enterprise Northern Ireland Knowledge Repository. The Enterprise Northern Ireland mission is to promote enterprise and support our members to develop leading edge programmes and services. I believe we will continue to make a major contribution to the growth of the Northern Ireland economy in 2018 and beyond. ■

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ANTRIM 028 9446 7774 admin@antrimenterprise.com www.facebook.com/AntrimEnterprise

BANBRIDGE 02840662260 info@bdelonline.com www.bdelonline.com

COOKSTOWN 028 8676 3660 info@cookstownenterprise.co.uk www.cookstownenterprise.co.uk

NEWTOWNARDS 028 9181 9787 info@ardsbusiness.com www.ardsbusiness.com

CARRICKFERGUS 028 9336 9528 info@ceal.co.uk www.ceal.co.uk

DOWNPATRICK 028 4461 6416 business@downbc.co.uk www.downbc.co.uk

ARMAGH 028 3752 5050 fiona@abcarmagh.com www.abcarmagh.com

COLERAINE, BALLYCASTLE & BALLYMONEY 028 7035 6318 info@causeway-enterprise.co.uk www.causeway-enterprise.co.uk

BELFAST 028 9055 7557 enquiries@inspirebusinesscentre.co.uk www.inspirebusinesscentre.co.uk


MALLUSK 028 9083 8860 business@mallusk.org www.mallusk.org

BANGOR 028 9127 1525 mail@nddo.co.uk www.nddo.co.uk

BELFAST 028 9031 1002 hq@ortus.org www.ortus.org

NEWRY 028 3026 7011 info@nmea.net www.nmea.net

OMAGH 028 8224 9494 info@omaghenterprise.co.uk www.omaghenterprise.co.uk

LIMAVADY 028 7776 5655/2323 info@roevalleyenterprises.co.uk www.roevalleyenterprises.co.uk

BELFAST 028 9074 7470 mailbox@north-city.co.uk www.north-city.co.uk

BELFAST 028 9033 9906 info@ormeaubusinesspark.com www.ormeaubusinesspark.com

BELFAST 028 9061 0826 info@workwest.co.uk www.workwest.co.uk


COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

Former F1 driver and entrepreneur Eddie Irvine pictured alongside a DeLorean with councillor Mairead O’Donnell (left) and Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie

The sun shines on Belfast development John Mulgrew takes a look at some of the biggest announcements emerging from top global commercial property event MIPIM

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Giant's Park is an ambitious project to turn a once wasteland site in north Belfast into a technology hub which, it hopes, could create up to 400 jobs.

A series of developers, and members of Belfast City Council including chief executive Suzanne Wylie, made the trip to MIPIM this year in a bid to drum up interest and investment in a number of schemes.

Belfast City Council’s director of property and projects, Gerry Millar, said the 200acre portion of the Giant’s Park site “represents one of the largest single commercial development opportunities ever to have come to the market in Belfast and, unsurprisingly, has attracted a significant amount of interest from local and international parties alike”.

he redevelopment of a huge 200acre swathe of Belfast land and ambitious plans to turn the former Belfast Telegraph offices into a £75m mixed-use building are among the standout announcements made at the world's leading commercial property event in Cannes.

Among them is the Giant's Park site redevelopment, which was first announced around three years ago. Now, the council says it has received four proposals for the site.

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“I am pleased to say that we have received four proposals for the site - each very different and very exciting in their own right, and each presenting their respective vision for a commercial leisure and tourism-led, mixed used development,” he said.

“The council will now enter into due process in subjecting these proposals to intense clarification, evaluation and political endorsement before any decision is reached as to which is taken forward.” And in another council-backed scheme, fresh plans to redevelop the former Belfast Telegraph building at Royal Avenue were also unveiled at MIPIM. The £75m proposal, called The Sixth, could create 650 jobs during its redevelopment, and play host to 2,000 workers when completed. The plan is a joint venture between Belfast City Council and Co Tyrone developer McAleer and Rushe. Stephen Surphlis, property director of McAleer and Rushe, on behalf of Bel Tel LLP, said that


COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

What the former Belfast Telegraph building on Royal Avenue could look like

the plans are “important proposals that will bring a landmark building associated with the news industry back into use for a digital age”. “Adjacent to both the Ulster University campus and Central Library, The Sixth will play an important role in the regeneration of Belfast by delivering high quality workspace for global and local businesses, particularly those in the professional, creative and technology sectors”. Developers say the B2 listed building will be refurbished as part of the plans, which will include 230,000 sq ft of commercial space, with cafes, restaurants and retail on the ground floor.

“The partnership’s proposals will help to reenergise this area with a scheme that has been designed to respect the existing built heritage in this part of the city, and The Sixth will build on the momentum already generated by the Ulster University investment.” Meanwhile, details were unveiled of Liverpool developer Lawrence Kenwright's plans to turn the former War Memorial building in Belfast city centre, into a new hotel. His company Signature Living, which is also behind the new George Best hotel at the former Scottish Mutual building and Crumlin Road courthouse redevelopment, wants to turn the building into the Waring Hotel.

It is set to include 63 bedrooms across four floors, together with a ground floor bar/ restaurant and a rooftop bar. Speaking at MIPIM, Mr Kenwright said that “the Waring will take on Signature Living Group’s highly popular group accommodation concept”. “Following the footprint of the Signature Living Hotel in Liverpool, it will feature a range of uniquely themed rooms and group suites, accommodating from two up to 16 people - providing a new accommodation concept that will be attractive for both group and family stays in Belfast.” ■

A planning application is due to be submitted following the normal 12-week pre-application process, which will be led by consultants Turley. Councillor Mairead O’Donnell, chair of Belfast City Council’s city growth and regeneration committee, said: “This is an exciting milestone for what is Belfast City Council’s first joint venture with a private sector developer. “As part of the delivery of our city centre regeneration and investment strategy, the council made the strategic decision to invest in this part of the city centre and stimulate further regeneration.”

APRIL 2018

The Belfast MIPIM team in Cannes

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INTERVIEW

Business

Breakfast

By John Mulgrew

The column that doesn’t have time for lunch... Simon McEvoy

BREAKFASTER: SIMON McEVOY, DIVISIONAL DIRECTOR COMMERCIAL AGENCY, SAVILLS

He was working in Dublin during the roar of the 2006 Celtic Tiger, when rent rates for office space were at their peak.

BREAKFASTING VENUE: CAFE PARISIEN, BELFAST

But he said in 2008, around the time of the collapse of investment banking stalwart Lehman Brothers, the “market fell down” badly “within a couple of months”.

O

K... so it’s not quite sitting along the banks of the River Seine. But the reasonably recent addition to Belfast’s burgeoning list of places to eat, drink and be merry, Cafe Parisien, proved ample for an early-morning meet-up and discussion about how the city is changing, and where it’s going to end up. For this particular breakfast, it was a coffee morning only – with several caffeinated beverages the only fuel required for rigorous business discourse. And while upstairs Cafe Parisien serves up a range of French bistro classics, such as entrecote steak, parfait, baked Camembert and mussels, downstairs is a simpler, charming coffee and crepes affair.

And it took the city a long time to recover, with few keen to drop the tens of millions on building new offices or developments, and instead, there was a “period of sustained refurbishments”. Looking at Belfast, he said it’s now “time for the city centre to shine”. “My role is working on anything to do with offices, whether it’s acquiring land, giving development advice, sourcing old buildings for refurbishment or letting offices. “I also act for landlords and tenants, and when leases are in place, doing rent reviews.

lettings. “I think despite external challenges it is an Following his time south, he says Belfast’s market exciting place to be, and we are on the precipice is around five or six years behind its counterpart. of something big.”

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A number of city centre structures have been given a new lease of life in the last year or two. That includes Flax House on Adelaide Street. Just last month, it was revealed the scheme is now fully let.

“It was that way for two or three years,” he said.

“There are some very exciting projects such as One Bankmore Square, the Paper Exchange, and Banbridge man Simon McEvoy, director with we have already had a great success with HMRC Savills in Belfast, returned to Northern Ireland following a long stint in the commercial property taking Erskine House. game in Dublin. “On the tenant side, we have acted for Black Duck, Anomali, Alert Logic – with more than 250 The 37-year-old is involved with some of the jobs over the last 12 months.” city’s biggest commercial office projects, and

“It’s still in that (growth) period,” he said. And he said 2016 and 2017 have both been “two strong years” for Northern Ireland’s commercial property market.

the potential for refurbishment of existing buildings.

Aside from some of the city’s largest proposed office schemes, including Richland Group’s £65m One Bankmore Square development on the Dublin Road, Simon said that there also remains

Following a 14-month transformation project, the 30,000 sq ft building is home to five tenants and 350 staff. Meanwhile River House, over on High Street, is also nearing completion. “All the occupiers are growing, and considering relocation because they need more space,” according to Simon. “A lot of their buildings are defunct, and people need to move to a building that suits their needs. “And we are still a competitive location in regards to salaries and occupational costs. We haven’t taken off as a yet, due to Brexit perhaps, but that’s not different to any other location in the UK.” ■ THE BILL

Cafe Pa risien America no £2.70 x 3 Total: £ 8.10


Branding & marketing Sponsored by


Want to outsmart the competition? BRANDING & MARKETING

I’m with the brand... What defines a successful brand and how does a high-flying name sustain that success? Emma Deighan looks beyond iconic logos to discover branding is skin deep

I

f we consider the top 100 brands in the world, or even the top 10, they all have something in common. They are household names with trustworthy reputations and services and/or product qualities that are perceived by their consumers to be on a higher plain than their competitors. That includes top Northern Ireland-based brands - from burritos to flat-pack furniture.

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And they have a charisma - a personal USP that makes them more than just a business name. They do this by manifesting an affiliation with their consumer through clever strategies from their inception to the present day. And they’re strong on consistency.

to a clear strategy and delivers exceptional customer ‘experiences’.

Interbrand, a global brand consultancy, and publisher of the annual Best Breakthrough Brands, believes that growth and success of a brand is achieved when an organisation sticks

Apple would seemingly have the whole package; its image is youthful and non intimidating yet its service and product is deemed by many as second to none in the industry.

And its latest top 100 brands list named Apple, Google, and Microsoft as the three most valuable brands in the world


Does your brand reflect your business today? BRANDING & MARKETING

Apple boss Tim Cook with the late co-founder Steve Jobs on screen

Hark back to Steve Jobs’ autobiography in which Jobs told Walter Isaacson he was “on one of my fruitarian diets” and had just come back from an apple farm, and thought the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” And Apple is fun, still, and forever evolving making it ‘age and industry relevant’ too which Interbrand states is key to sustainability. “...it’s certainly no coincidence that the top growing brands this year master growth in a changing world,” Interbrand’s chief communications officer, Paola Norambuena, said. She believes that those investing in growth and adapting to cultural changes are the survivors in the brand war. And these proactive forces aren’t necessarily new names like Facebook, which entered the top ten for the first time this year. Coca-Cola, at number five, is still evolving and thriving despite its 126-year timeline. “It proves that understanding and embracing the ‘grow, change, grow’ cycle can create

APRIL 2018

sustained brand and business growth,” Ms Norambuena said. Customer centric brands are also leading the way. Those that analyse audience behaviour and react accordingly, as well as investing in their own people, put out a clear message that they are people-oriented. And who doesn’t warm to a corporation that has charm and compassion? UK brand consultancy Brandwell and its research partners know full well the benefits of charisma when it comes to branding. So much so it launched the ‘charisma index’ - a research poll that defined this charisma along a number of axes: consciousness, purpose, integrity, generosity, courage and delivery. It involved interviewing 10,000 people across four different markets in the UK, US and Europe and it covered brand perceptions of global giants including Amazon, IKEA, CocaCola and Apple. Among its key findings were ‘fun’ brands that connect with consumers like Lego, Google and Disney scored high across the six axes and across all the countries involved in the poll.

Arguably one of the most iconic ‘fun brands’ around is Swedish homeware store, IKEA, which celebrates its 10th year in Northern Ireland. Laurent Tiersen, country marketing manager, IKEA UK and Ireland believes IKEA succeeds at branding because it doesn’t fear mixing business with fun. “Our Swedish heritage is important to our brand but it also influences our spirit, our values and our culture,” she said. “As a brand, we’re not afraid to have some fun and we feel that this is reflected in our tone of voice and personality. With a happy rebel spirit, we are restless doers, driven by curiosity, enthusiasm and a desire to create a better everyday life for the many people.” And it’s strong on customer relations, she says. “All brands are built by people and we spend a lot of time really understanding how people live. This is why we conduct hundreds of home visits a year, looking at life at home in the UK with a real focus on people’s needs, their frustrations and their dreams,” Mr Laurent said. >

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We use design intervention to solve business problems BRANDING & MARKETING

Jane Williams from Holywood, Co Down has been working with some of the world’s biggest brands since her PR career began here in 2007. Specialising in consumer goods, retail and hospitality, she is now brand communications director at JComms, a company that experienced its own rebrand in 2016. She’s worked with clients including IKEA, Specsavers, Flybe, Spar and Ulster Bank to develop campaigns that “communicate brand values, and bring an emotional connection to consumers”. She said: “It’s a common misconception that a brand is a logo and that’s about it. To the consumer, this can often be the case – however quality of services and goods, taste, reputation can all factor into the brand and affect decision making by our savvy shoppers.” Ms Williams is an advocate of getting the professionals to shout about brand values to sustain popularity. “It is up to us as communication specialists, to ensure that consumers are digesting the brand values that, whether its consciously or unconsciously, turns them towards a brand,” she said. “In Northern Ireland, we have a fondness towards some of our homegrown brands such as Tayto, Bushmills and Irwin’s for example, as we know they’re built on family values, provide quality products and will always be available when needed.” One Irish brand that has risen through the ranks to become a respected household name with a jovial charisma is Mexican fast-food chain Boojum. The burrito takeaway made its home in Botanic Avenue where the brand and its product, service and charisma grew to form queues the whole way up the street.

Boojum owners David and Andrew Maxwell

“We have asked our customers extensively what is most important to them and it is very clear - food quality, friendliness of staff and speed of service. We do this better than most because we are passionate about our food and the quality of ingredients. We offer some of the best training in hospitality and frequently get comments like ‘I want to be as happy as the staff in Boojum’". “There's a technical element to the training also, which produces very efficient teams in each of our stores, we also invest in the best technology and equipment that allows us to offer industry leading speed of service."

It was bought over by the Maxwell brothers in 2015 who expanded the brand to a fold of 10 establishments throughout Ireland.

Mr Maxwell said the brand is built from a “commitment to three key drivers”. These are consistency in quality, friendliness and speed of service and engaging marketing inclusive of store layout.

David Maxwell said: "The Boojum brand is built of the back of one of the best value propositions in the UK and Ireland.

“Customers are buying in to and supporting a business that is passionate about food, passionate about our people that wants to

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build something amazing in the restaurant space. The Boojum culture can be felt when you step across one of our doors or visit our website or see any of our marketing,” he said. Branding expert, Flavilla Fongang from www.3coloursrule.com agrees that a brand is more than good looks. It’s what lies beneath. “Branding is all about developing an experience, a feeling, an emotional connection between brands and consumers. It’s about how the brand makes the consumer feel. When you buy an Apple computer, for example, you are not just buying the design. You are buying into the value, purpose or vision of the brand,” she told Ulster Business. “You are buying into Apple’s desire to change the status quo by constantly innovating and evolving. In order to get the basics of branding right the first time, you should bear this in mind. It goes beyond your logo and website design. You have to play the experience down to a tee. ■


BRANDING & MARKETING

What role does data play in modern marketing? Joanne Kearney from Glow Metrics takes a look at the rise of digital analytics

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igital analytics is enjoying a growth spurt and according to industry insider, Econsultancy in its 2018 Digital Trends report, it shows no signs of slowing down. This report also highlighted that marketers listed ‘content’ and ‘experience management’, ‘analytics, audience and data management’ as the highest priority marketing areas for UK organisations in 2018. It’s no surprise that all three of these areas focused around data – generating it, managing it, analysing it and using it- all to inform on a better customer experience. Long gone are the days when vanity metrics, such as click-through-rate and cost-perclick can be used to hide poorly measured or poorly performing campaigns, and as marketers we now have access to so much customer data that there’s no excuse for campaigns not working. In our experience of working with a range of clients in sectors including health, education and media, today’s marketer can use data to not only track and analyse campaigns but predict and personalise customer experiences. To stay ahead, here are some top tips: Start with a measurement plan Google Tag Manager is a marketer’s dream - allowing control tags on client websites, stripping the reliance (and common bottleneck) away from IT teams. From tracking views on pages to measuring the percentage of videos watched, there’s very little that’s not now possible with this tool. Set goals Ensure you’ve set-up goals in your Google Analytics account. Telling Google Analytics

APRIL 2018

what your goals are means you can easily segment the quality of traffic you track and build customer insights around the groups you want to focus resources on. This will help you build your marketing around attracting better quality traffic, resulting in a higher return on marketing spend. Be transparent with data collection Even before GDPR raised its head, it has always been important to be as open as possible with customers on what data you are collecting and processing. At the very simplest level when using Google Analytics, you must agree to have a privacy policy on your website, and this should be searchable within 1 click of every page. You also can’t collect any PII (personally identifiable information); no names, addresses, emails or phone numbers. User testing tools Google Analytics is great for collecting and providing the quantitative data around the user journey like conversion rates or page interactions, but not so great on the qualitative side – such as delivering

personalised content and collecting descriptive customer feedback. Google’s latest UX product, Google Optimise, allows you to test, adapt and personalise the user journey to provide an overall better customer experience. Create visual data reporting If you are confident you’re collecting enough data about visitors who engage with you digitally and want to manipulate this information into more visual graphs and tables, explore Data Studio. It can easily connect and bring in any data source and mould it into easy to read tables and graphs. Data is a key for marketers to understand their customers. However, simply having it is just not enough, using it effectively is as important. Once mined, through online tools, data needs to be used correctly to create marketing campaigns that will deliver results. Having data that is relevant and current is marketing gold and investing in technology and processes to make sure you get it right should be a key objective for marketers in 2018 and beyond. ■

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Let’s work together to outsmart the competition

“In business, what’s dangerous is not to evolve” Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder

Brands come to us when they want results. Global giant, or start up, we are passionate about comprehensive brand design and strategic thinking, achieving engaging communication through print, online, new technology and new mediums. We are a smorgasbord of passionate creatives, dedicated in delivering imaginative, beautiful work. Together we are creative change-makers. We are a creative design agency based on Lisburn Road, Belfast. We specialise in brand building, graphic design and digital design. Our unique approach delivers deep meaningful change across our clients businesses. We’re a studio of seven creatives, here are some of the questions we get asked on a regular basis.

What is a brand? Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Your brand is a persons gut feeling about your business. It has the power to persuade and change minds, rebranding can change perceptions on failing services and products. My logo is my brand, right? No. Your logo is not your brand, it is however an important part of your brand, which is built up of many pillars. Pillars such as narrative, strategy, and brand guidelines, all of which are as important as each other in a successful brand. We are losing clients to our competitors, what do we do? It’s now time to re-brand or reposition your brand. This process will re-evaluate your ambitions as

a company making sure that your brand is a truthful representation of your offering. This will breed trust and confidence in your brand with new and loyal customers. A re-brand can also establish loyalty in your team providing an internal brand culture where team members are proud to come to work everyday. Where do I start? Talk to one of our senior team members about getting your branding project off the ground. Connor our Managing Director, Lynsay our Head of Brand and Ryan our Design Director are always happy to set up a meet and tailor a brand package for your business.

kaizenbrandevolution.com


Evolving brands through design intervention We use creativity and experience to create brands that outsmart the competition.

Get in touch if you believe in your brand. Tel: 028 9507 2007 | kaizenbrandevolution.com


I N D R A O B N O #GET

How do I sign up?

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Getting involved is easy. You can visit www.translink.co.uk/ busandtrainweek/ to sign-up your organisation or find out more. You can also call the Bus and Train Week team on 028 9089 9455 or email smartmovers@ translink.co.uk

Join the #GetOnBoardNI Corporate Challenge! Help your employees save money, reduce stress, be active and more productive Translink is calling on organisations across Northern Ireland to leave the car at home and give the train or bus a go. The public transport operator is relaunching its hugely successful Bus and Train Week campaign this summer — which runs from June 4 to 10. Bus and Train Week celebrates the many advantages of using public transport and offers Translink customers heavily discounted fares and attractive partner offers. It shines a spotlight on the vital role public transport plays in the success of Northern Ireland supporting economic growth and social inclusion while delivering energy efficiency and ‘low carbon’ mobility. And last year's event saw an extra 250,000 passenger journeys across Northern Ireland public transport. Translink group chief executive, Chris Conway, said: “We all have a responsibility to ease traffic congestion, promote a healthier lifestyle and care for the environment;

Philip Browne, Chairman ICE NI, Kirsty McManus, National Director, IoD, Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chris Conway, Group Chief Executive, Translink, Iain Hoy, Senior Policy Advisor, CBI and Kieran Harding, Managing Director, BITC at the launch of the 2018 Bus and Train Week #GetonBoardNI Corporate Challenge

the Corporate Challenge is a great opportunity to showcase what your organisation is doing when it comes to CSR (corporate social responsibility) and sustainability. “Translink is firmly focused on transforming public transport, making it your first choice for travel in Northern Ireland.

“We’re asking the local business sector to encourage their employees to take public transport, even just one day a week. “This will help them save money, reduce stress, enjoy a healthier travel routine, relax or be more productive on board services and reduce their environmental impact.”


“Our team enthusiastically got behind the initiative, which was an ideal way to publicly showcase our efforts towards sustainable travel.

What’s the Corporate Challenge all about? Translink pioneered the challenge to engage the corporate community and encourage commuters to try the bus or train for their daily journey to work. Supported by Business in the Community (BITC), CBI, ICE, IOD and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, more than 60 companies in Northern Ireland took part in last year’s challenge. What’s in it for me? Using public transport offers many benefits for your business, employees and the wider community including: Environmental benefits – Traffic and congestion impacts air quality, noise pollution and climate change. Switching to public transport helps alleviate some of these pressures. More 'me' time – Whether it's reading a book or catching up on work emails, getting out from behind the wheel and on board public transport lets commuters have a productive daily commute, allowing them to plan ahead. Health benefits – With everyday physical activity essential both to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress, organisations will empower employees to take responsibility for their own wellbeing by using public transport as a form of ‘active travel’. Translink will provide participating organisations with an information pack containing tools to roll out the Corporate Challenge and make your Bus and Train Week celebration a success. Organisations that demonstrate their support for public transport during the Corporate Challenge will be officially recognised by Translink and incorporated into publicity opportunities.

“Staff were incentivised to get involved in a selfie competition, with prizes for the best pictures taken on-board the bus or train.

Translink’s Lynda Shannon with Gemma Lawlor and David Sturgess from Edwards and Co.

David Sturgess, partner at Edwards and Co is one of last year's Corporate Challenge Champions. David Says: “Edwards and Co was delighted to be crowned overall winner of the 2017 Bus and Train Week #GetonBoardNI Challenge.

“As the week progressed, the challenge gathered real momentum internally, so much so that on the last day of the week, we were able to lend our company carpark to another business and raise £100 for charity in the process. “Taking part in the campaign was a really positive experience, which encouraged staff at all levels to give public transport a go. We’re already planning to get involved again this year and would certainly encourage others to do the same.”

And Joanna McArdle, Barclays Bank corporate team, said: “The Barclays Bank corporate team thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the #GetonBoardNI Corporate Challenge. “Over 50% of people in our office already regularly take public transport to work and during Bus and Train Week, this increased to over 75%. “Team members reported the health benefits of hopping on board, with a number of staff taking the opportunity to get off a few stops earlier and run or walk the extra distance home.

Joanna McArdle, Barclays Bank pictured with Lynda Shannon, Translink

“We’re looking forward to getting involved again this year and will be

working hard to get everyone taking the bus or train at least once during the week.”

#G


NEWS

Bombardier’s Belfast headquarters

Bombardier boon amid expansion Just weeks after aerospace giant Bombardier won its trade battle with Boeing in the US, it's now looking at growing its Northern Ireland base

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ombardier's Northern Ireland workforce has been given another boon amid a new contract and expansion of its wing production facility in Belfast. The new plans could see production increased at the Canadian-owned planemaker's Belfast plant, which makes the wings for its flagship C Series passenger aircraft. Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland breathed a sigh of relief when the US

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International Trade Commission ruled in its favour following a challenge by American rival Boeing. The company had been facing a 292% tariff on the sale of its planes to the US.

credit agency, will be supporting the deal, which was originally struck in 2011 and marks the first sale of Bombardier’s C Series aircraft to an Asian airline.

It employs around 4,000 staff in Northern Ireland.

In 2011, Bombardier Aerospace announced that Korean Air signed an agreement to acquire 10 CS300 aircraft, with an additional 10 options and 10 purchase rights on CS300 airliners.

Meanwhile, the Government has announced that it will be backing a “landmark contract” between Bombardier and Korean Airlines for the sale of two of their C Series aircraft. UK Export Finance (UKEF), the UK’s export

Baroness Fairhead, the Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion, said: “The UK is


NEWS

at the forefront of the civil aerospace industry, and I am delighted that the department for international trade is backing this landmark contract, which will support the global success of Bombardier’s C Series programme and its operations in Northern Ireland. “This represents a double-first — it is the first time that UKEF has supported a C Series aircraft sale from Bombardier, who are a major investor and employer in Northern Ireland, and it is the first sale of the C Series to an Asian airline.” UKEF worked in partnership with Canadian export credit agency Export Development Canada (EDC) to provide Korean airlines with financing to support the sale of two C Series aircraft. Meanwhile, Bombardier's proposed expansion of its factory at Airport Road West, could see it grow in size by around a third. In February, Bombardier announced a huge 57% rise in profits as an independent US

APRIL 2018

trade body says rival Boeing did not lose out on sales when a US airline placed a multibillion pound order for its part-Belfast made planes. And in a document explaining its reasons for backing Bombardier, the US ITC said that "Boeing lost no sales or revenues" as a result of Delta Air Lines placing an order for 75 of its C Series planes. Following that order, Boeing launched a complaint against Bombardier, and claimed the Canadian-owned giant had been selling off planes at below cost and were unfairly subsidised by government. Its earnings before interest and tax for the whole of last year rose from $427m (£304m) to $672m (£478m). Its chief executive, Alain Bellemare, said the explanation from the US ITC over the Boeing trade challenge was "good news". "Bombardier closed out the second full year

of its five-year turnaround plan with very strong performance," he said. "Because of this solid performance, we begin 2018 with great momentum. Our operational transformation is in full motion: our growth programs - including the Global 7000 - are on track and we have a clear line of sight to our 2020 objectives." The Global 7000 jets are also part-Belfast made. In its latest results, Bombardier said: "We are moving ahead and making progress obtaining regulatory approvals for the announced partnership with Airbus for the C Series aircraft. "We expect to obtain all approvals for the partnership in 2018, and in the meantime, we are conducting site visits and planning for the operation of the US final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, and working on other integration streams, consistent with antitrust law". ■

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TITLE

A new dawn for retail in Belfast Ten years ago, the long-awaited opening of the now landmark Victoria Square signalled a new dawn for retail in Northern Ireland. Commercial property firm Lambert Smith Hampton has been at the helm of the asset management strategy for Victoria Square for more than five years. Criona Collins, head of retail agency reflects on the impact of the flagship scheme and the vision for the future

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en years ago, Victoria Square was one of the most ambitious development projects that Belfast had ever seen. Built by Multi Development Partnership and pre-funded by the present landlords, Commerz

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Real, the doors to Victoria Square opened on March 6, 2008 to great fanfare following a huge ÂŁ400m investment. When plans were first unveiled, Victoria Square provided a clear vision of what it would be like to work, live, shop and socialise in the heart of

the city centre. Since its completion the centre has provided an integral connection and focal point for the redeveloped Waterfront area, the central business district and the city as a whole. As Northern Ireland’s largest ever retail-led commercial development, the iconic centre


RETAIL

in the city. Belfast city centre finally got the opportunity to perform and serve as Northern Ireland’s regional shopping destination and the economic impact of that should not be underestimated. The growing number of leading brands choosing to join and remain within Victoria Square is testament to the partnership approach between Commerz Real, asset manager Lambert Smith Hampton and the centre management team. Commerz Real, which also owns 50% of one of Europe’s leading shopping centres Westfield in London, has been instrumental in providing the continued investment that has enabled Victoria Square to deliver a first class offer. A WINNING MIX OF RETAIL & LEISURE BRANDS Lambert Smith Hampton’s strategy has been driven by the core objective of attracting and retaining the best brands and tenants, as Criona Collins, head of retail agency explains.

Criona Collins, head of retail agency at Lambert Smith Hampton

sits on 1.8 hectares of land, with 70 units, restaurants and cafes, an eight screen cinema, 106 apartments and 954 car parking spaces. With over 800,000sq ft of retail space, Victoria Square extended city centre retail space by almost one third. The centre employs over 2,500 staff – 116 of whom have worked at Victoria Square since day one - and has contributed circa £7m per annum in rates since opening. The centre has achieved an impressive £2bn in sales across all of its retailers and leisure operators in the past decade, a total that has been driven by its unique mix of brands. Victoria Square brought premium national and international brands like House of Fraser, Apple, Cruise, Hugo Boss, LK Bennett and Hollister to Belfast for the first time.

“Our team has been involved in the leasing of 31 units, which has kept Victoria Square’s offering fresh, attractive and exciting. Michael Kors, Mango, FatFace, Boux Avenue, Pretty Green, Lifestyle Sports, Five Guys and Zizzi are just some of the new brands that have added greatly to the retail and leisure mix in recent years. “Luxury retailers such as Cruise and Hugo Boss reflect the shopping aspirations of the city. The modern consumer is more informed, intelligent and demanding. What we had in the city before this shopping centre existed simply wouldn’t have satisfied this trend.” Victoria Square’s ability to facilitate experiences beyond pure retail - experiences that capture attention and extend customer dwell-time - has been key to its success. This success is reflected in the growing footfall figures, which have risen to 12 million over the last five years.

“We have worked on some very exciting investments in the last year, not least the £5m renovation by House of Fraser, which saw the entrance of new brands including Charlotte The city was no longer to be seen as behind its Tilbury, Nars and Frédéric Malle, as well as the counterparts in Dublin, London and Glasgow but extension of the popular Jo Malone boutique. as a worthy retail and leisure destination. Money Luxury lifestyle brands Mulberry, Chanel and that would have otherwise been spent in other Tom Ford all substantially extended their offer UK and Irish cities has been retained and spent within House of Fraser. To secure this activity

APRIL 2018

during a period of uncertainty, both politically and economically, was a major coup for the scheme,” says Criona. “Hollister also chose not to exercise a break in their contract, instead they carried out extensive refurbishment works, reflecting a big vote of confidence for Victoria Square.”

Our team has been involved in the leasing of 31 units, which has kept Victoria Square’s offering fresh, attractive and exciting.

An intrinsic understanding of what tenants and brands need is also at the heart of this collaborative approach, explains Criona.

“Commerz Real, senior asset manager, Anyi Hobson, has continued to work closely with our occupiers to optimise store space. Topshop, is a great example; by successfully negotiating a lease renewal, Commerz Real, enabled Topshop to undertake a complete store refresh, in line with their new flagship format, which includes more experiential offers – eye threading, a barber shop, hair braiding and nail bar services. Injecting retail theatre into the shopping experience is so important in this era of ‘retailtainment’ where the customer expects and wants more,” she says. “The blend of international, national and local retailers is what makes Victoria Square particularly interesting. Recently we welcomed Rio & Brazil - one of Belfast’s longest running independent fashion boutiques – with a new 3,200sq ft store. At the other end of the scale, the centre still hosts the only Apple store in Ireland and we look forward to working with this retailer as they continue their journey here,” she adds. “We also have a strong food and beverage offering in Victoria Square, which gained particular notoriety when the anticipation and queues formed ahead of the opening of Five Guys. From The Ivory to Wagamama and Pizza >

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TITLE

Express, there is something for everyone and we continue to explore new opportunities to refresh the line-up.” A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO MANAGEMENT Since being appointed as managing and letting agents for Victoria Square in 2013, Lambert Smith Hampton has also contributed to the centre’s growth by overhauling many of its processes and systems – driving improvement through fresh thinking. “Within five years we have challenged our approach to focus on improving the experience of our customers in line with market trends. We will continue to adapt to the rapidly shifting consumer trends and maintain a focus on delivering a vibrant retail destination that balances and combines the best in physical and digital retail,” explains Criona. “Victoria Square is a family destination you can visit for a full day out. This is perhaps just one of the many reasons why our consumers have been so loyal, returning time and time again to Victoria Square, and we thank them for that.” Lambert Smith Hampton has over 30 years’ shopping centre experience and takes a holistic and pioneering approach to Victoria Square, which encompasses Property and Asset Management. Marketing, Leasing and Professional Services. “I am in the privileged position to lead a dynamic team, all of whom have played a significant part in shaping the success of

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Victoria Square over the last five years. We are delighted to have the instruction for such a unique asset. It is a big part of our business and we work hard at it,” says Criona.

driving economic growth. A collaborative approach with all city stakeholders will continue to be important for Victoria Square, as Criona explains.

Lambert Smith Hampton works closely with the in house team at Victoria Square, which is led by Michelle Greeves, who previously spent 23 years with the centre’s anchor tenant House of Fraser. Every person in the team has a strong retail background and understands the challenges and goals of the retailers and their customers.

“Tourism plays a major part in our city’s economic growth plan and in order to make sure that we are leading in this field we continue to call on Belfast’s stakeholders to review Sunday trading laws. As a centre Victoria Square wants to progress positively and collaboratively and we believe that extended trading will enable this,” she says.

A VISION FOR THE FUTURE - THE NEXT 10 YEARS Belfast is a very different city today than it was 10 years ago. Victoria Square has played a significant role in the regeneration of the city, alongside the efforts and investment from Belfast City Council, Visit Belfast, tourism bodies and other private investors that have put the city on the map as a destination for investment and tourism.

“While employment in the retail sector is often overlooked, it is also important to take into account the large and varied work-force. The sector is one of Northern Ireland’s largest private sector employers. Therefore, gamechanging areas such as extended trading hours and a business rates system that is fit for purpose, will lead to much needed employment opportunities,” Criona adds.

In order to promote the centre, Commerz Real has contributed an additional £6.5m which has been spent on consumer marketing over the last ten years. This spend has ensured Victoria Square maintains its place as the top leisure and retail destination for tourists and local consumers. Looking to the future, external factors including political stability, sustained private investment and legislative change will all play a role in creating a retail industry that keeps

“We know that we are facing a challenging year ahead and we are prepared for that. Commerz Real has always reacted with clarity and leadership in times of challenges, having overcome one economic downturn already with a strong performance. “Our team at Victoria Square is looking ahead to the future with optimism, secure in the knowledge that we have the necessary drive, innovation, creativity and experience to ensure Victoria Square can thrive in a changing market.” ■


Motoring

By Pat Burns

Sponsored by


The Largest Family Owned Motor Retailer in N.Ireland www.donnellygroup.co.uk

MOTORING

Aircross roads ahead

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itroen’s chunky new SUV, the C3 Aircross is proving a hit for the French manufacturer. It has just picked up two top awards here and in Europe. AutoBest assesses cars against 13 different criteria, including value-for-money, design, comfort and technology, as well as services and spare parts availability in the distribution networks and the new C3 Aircross came out as Best Buy. It has also been crowned the winner in the ‘best small crossover’ category of the UK Car of the Year Awards 2018.

that assist your journey including voice controlled 3D navigation, keyless entry and start, a reversing camera, lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring. The small SUV also offers best-in-class space for maximum passenger comfort, with generous legroom in the front and rear, as well as excellent boot space with a volume of up to 520-litres.

Pricing starts from £13,995 OTR and the new model offers class-leading space, modular design, connectivity and innovative technology onboard. Citroen’s new SUV has the latest in grip control technology with hill descent assist and offers great phone connectivity with the range debut of wireless smartphone charging.

Available in three trim levels Touch, Feel and Flair, the C3 Aircross is powered by PureTech petrol and BlueHDi diesel engines, as well as the latest generation EAT6 fully automatic gearbox. Ulster Business tested the 1.2 three cylinder petrol turbo model. As manufacturers move away from diesel, small turbo petrol engines are the way forward now. This 110bhp unit is more than capable of powering the Aircross along at a brisk pace while still offering diesel levels of economy. The combined cycle fuel economy is 56mpg.

Technology continues as a core theme in the C3 Aircross with 12 different technologies

The C3 Aircross looks the part with its raised ground clearance, elevated driving position,

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front and rear skid plates, large wheels and wheel arch extensions. The body styling is underscored by strong graphic features such as touches of colour on the roof bars, and the ‘Venetian blind’ rear quarter-lights. It has an unrivalled number of personalisation options. The exterior bi-tone roof, standard on the Flair trim level and available in three colours can be complimented by one of the four exterior colour pack options, giving a total of 85 combinations. Citroen’s new SUV has up to 12 driving aids to further improve the driving experience, equipped with intuitive technology for safety and peace of mind. Features include the colour head-up display, speed sign recognition and recommendation, active safety brake and intelligent beam headlights. It also has park assist, top rear vision reversing camera, keyless entry and start, as well as lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring systems. ■


RANGE ROVER VELAR

REDUCTIVE DESIGN ADDED ATTITUDE

Reductionism is the principle that defines every aspect of the Range Rover Velar, from its elegant silhouette to its minimalist interior. Available from ÂŁ399 + VAT per month with Business Contract Hire, now is the perfect time to stand out. Get in contact with the team at Donnelly Land Rover Dungannon today to find out more. Donnelly Land Rover 59 Moy Road, Dungannon, Co.Tyrone, BT71 7DT Call 028 8772 2887 www.donnellygroup.co.uk/land-rover

Official Fuel Consumption Figures for the Range Rover Velar range in mpg (I/100km): Urban 22.2-45.6 (12.7-6.2); Extra Urban 37.7-57.7 (7.5-4.9); Combined 30.1-52.5 (9.4-5.4). CO2 emissions 214-142 g/km. Official EU Test Figures. For comparative purposes only. Real world figures may differ. Terms & conditions apply. Quotation based on Range Rover Velar 2.0 D180 4dr Auto. Prices exclusive of VAT payable at 20% and maintenance. Business customers only. Initial Rental: ÂŁ1,197. Mileage: 10,000 per annum. Excess mileage charge: 17.42p per mile. Duration: 48 months. Finance provided by Land Rover Contract Hire, a trading style of LEX Auto Lease Ltd, 25 Gresham Street London, EC2V 7HN. Lex Autolease Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for credit related regulated and insurance mediation activities.


The Largest Family Owned Motor Retailer in N.Ireland www.donnellygroup.co.uk

MOTORING

Insignia Country Tourer gets all wheel drive

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itting at the top of Vauxhall’s passenger car range, the Insignia Country Tourer competes with rivals including the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack and the Audi Allroad. It is certainly in good company but more than capable of mixing with Germany’s finest while undercutting them on price. The Country Tourer is more spacious and considerably lighter than its predecessor and comes with a wide range of innovative technologies. With all-round black protective cladding and silver front and rear skid plates, the newcomer has a tough and rugged offroad appearance. The new Insignia Country Tourer, is above all, extremely practical. To make loading as easy as possible, the tailgate can be opened without touching the car. In combination with keyless open and start, a simple kicking motion under the rear bumper is enough to open the tailgate (a vehicle silhouette projected onto the ground shows the correct area), with another kicking motion required to close it.

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To increase loading space to 1,665 litres, 135 litres more than the outgoing version, the new Insignia Country Tourer comes with optional 40/20/40 foldable rear seats, enabling even more flexible loading space configurations. The standard roof rails not only emphasise the adventurous look, but allow the Insignia Country Tourer to carry roof loads of up to 100kg. The wheelbase has been increased by 92mm, creating a more spacious cabin. The new Insignia Country Tourer comes with premium ergonomic front seats and the heated outer rear seats, heated windscreen and heated steering wheel. The Country Tourer comes with all-wheeldrive and a new eight-speed automatic transmission which improves both handling and turn-in and is powered by Vauxhall’s popular 2.0-litre Turbo D (combined 51.4mpg and 145g/km CO2) and a 2.0-litre Bi-Turbo D with 210PS.

The improved FlexRide chassis provides the basis for optimal, situation-based driving behaviour. It adapts the dampers, steering, throttle response and shift points (on automatic transmissions) independently or based on the modes ‘standard’, ‘sport’ or ‘tour’, which can be selected by the driver. Depending on the selected mode, steering and throttle response are more direct and the ESP anti-skid system intervenes at a different stage to suit. The new central ‘drive mode control’ software is the heart and soul of the adaptive chassis. It continuously analyses the information provided by the sensors and settings, automatically recognising the individual driving style. The new Country Tourer is available with a sophisticated IntelliLux LED headlight system featuring new functions that further improve night-time visibility. Prices for the all wheel drive Insignia Country Tourer start at £27,235. ■


The Largest Family Owned Motor Retailer in N.Ireland www.donnellygroup.co.uk

MOTORING

The A-Team? T

he all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is now on sale, with prices starting from just £25,800 for the A180 d SE. The petrol-powered A200 starts from £27,500, while the A250 is available from £30,240. The stylish new model is initially available in three trims: SE, Sport and AMG Line; and with a choice of three engines, all with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Every model comes packed with a high specification as standard. The entry-level SE features twin seven-inch displays including a central touchscreen with MBUX multimedia system with ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice activation; comfort suspension; 16-inch alloy wheels; DAB radio; Artico leather and Bertrix fabric upholstery; active lane keeping assist; speed limit assist; Keyless-Go starting function; and air conditioning.

Dinamica microfibre upholstery; and threespoke sports steering wheel. The 180d uses a 1.5-litre diesel engine, which produces 116 hp and 260 Nm of torque. It delivers up to 68.9 mpg on the combined cycle, with a top speed of 125 mph. It can sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 10.5 seconds. The A200 is powered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an output of 163 hp and 250 Nm. It can deliver up to 51.4 mpg. The A250 has a petrol 2.0-litre engine which can generate 224hp and 350 Nm. It can achieve 45.6 mpg on the combined cycle. It can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 6.2 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph.

The Sport trim line adds LED high performance headlights; 17-inch alloy wheels; Artico and Fleron fabric upholstery; and automatic climate control.

There are a number of options available. The Executive equipment package costs £1,395 and upgrades the standard seveninch central touchscreen media display to a 10.25-inch item, as well as adding active parking assist with Parktronic; heated front seats; and mirror package.

AMG Line customers will benefit from 18-inch AMG alloy wheels; AMG bodystyling; Artico and

For £2,395, customers can specify the Premium equipment line which, in addition

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to the Executive line, adds a 10.25-inch cockpit display – creating a widescreen effect; 64-colour ambient lighting; illuminated door sills; Keyless-Go; upgraded sound system; and rear armrest. The Premium Plus equipment line includes the Premium and Executive lines and adds memory function for the driver and front passenger seats; multibeam LED head lights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus; and a panoramic sunroof. The Advanced Navigation package introduces augmented reality into the onboard satellite navigation. Using a camera located at the top of the windscreen, the infotainment screen overlays the navigation display with the actual road ahead, making for clearer, more obvious navigation. The package includes traffic sign assist which automatically reads road signs, making sure the driver is always aware of the current speed limit. The advanced navigation package costs £495 and is only available in conjunction with the executive, premium or premium plus equipment lines. ■


APPOINTMENTS

Jane Williams has been appointed to the new role of brand communications director at PR and content agency JComms. Ms Williams takes on the position having been with the company for more than six years, and the past three as a senior consultant. Dr Stefan Mix has been appointed as head of biocatalysis at Almac Group. In his new role he is responsible for the development and application of platform technologies within Almac Sciences. The Federation of Small Businesses has appointed Tina McKenzie as its new policy chair in Northern Ireland. Ms McKenzie is managing director of Staffline Group.

Tom Cosgrove has joined Londonderry firm Gradon Architecture. He joins the practice following more than two years Faulkner Brown in Newcastle upon Tyne and graduated in 2015 from Queen’s University in Belfast with a Masters in Architecture. Dr Donna Hamilton has joined R&D tax credit business the Momentum Group. Dr Hamilton has been appointed as R&D technical consultant with the Bangorbased company. Pamela McCreedy has been appointed as Local Government Auditor (LGA), with the responsibility for leading all local government audits across Northern Ireland.

Ryan Bell been appointed business development executive at Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is responsible for recruiting and retaining NI Chamber members and ensuring that members maximise NI Chamber’s services including events, business growth initiatives and marketing platforms. Charis Cancer Care has appointed Veronica Morris as director of fundraising to support the charity enhance its long-term sustainability. Caroline Greer has been appointed finance director for IRP Commerce. Ms Greer brings more than 25 years of experience in senior finance roles across a range of organisations in the manufacturing, retail and charity sectors.

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APPOINTMENTS

Laura Collins has been appointed support and training specialist for IRP Commerce. Her role involves providing technical support for online customers. James Cave has been appointed account manager for Export Technologies. His role is to optimise online sales for some of the UK’s largest e-retailers. Martin Gribbin has been appointed account manager for Export Technologies. Mr Gribbin’s main role is to assist and advise clients on application functionality, advance international growth for clients and develop new client websites.

Sarah Bradley has been appointed account manager for Export Technologies. Ms Bradley’s role is to guide and influence retailers on how to grow their online businesses. Her experience lies in digital marketing and web development. Oliver Loughead joins Brewin Dolphin’s financial planning team as a financial planning assistant. Mr Loughead studied finance at Queen’s University before working at First Derivatives. Andrew Burns has been appointed divisional director at Brewin Dolphin Belfast. A chartered FCSI, Mr Burns has been with the company for 10 years and is responsible for agent business development and portfolio management.

Brewin Dolphin Belfast has appointed Declan McAlister as a graduate trainee. Mr McAlister studied Scots and English Law at Queen’s University and has a postgraduate degree in Law (Banking and Finance). Peter Murray has been promoted to assistant portfolio manager within the portfolio management team at Brewin Dolphin Belfast. Mr Murray was previously a trade support assistant at Citibank, and studied at Queen’s University. Canadian gold mine firm, Dalradian, has appointed NI public relations and public affairs specialist Barry Turley as director of communications. Mr Turley has been involved in strategic communications since the late 1990s.

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Celebrating life, every day, everywhere

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PHOTOCALL 1. Adrian O’Connell, head of contacts and technology at Tughans, Richard Lindsay, director of legal and public affairs at Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and Mark Irwin, managing director at Ardmore Advertising pictured at the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Breakfast Briefing.

1 2. The Quartisan team inside their Cathedral Quarter restaurant in Belfast following its re-launch. Pictured are front of house Dwight Mettleton, chef Michael Hartnett , head chef Adam Sarhan, and owner Eamon Blaney.

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3. Queen’s University Belfast has launched a new MBA programme. Pictured at the launch are Anne Clydesdale, director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s, Alastair Coulson, asset and property management director, the Lotus Group, Dr Wendy Austin, Vicki Hassan, head of transaction banking, Danske Bank, Richard Kirk, regional director, Institution of Civil Engineers, and Professor Nola Hewitt-Dundas, head of Queen’s Management School.

3 4. Julie Hastings, marketing director of Hastings Hotels pictured with Fiona Brown of Fiona Brown Communications, which has been awarded the contract for the group.

5. Girlguiding Ulster chief commissioner Brenda Herron, Ciara Lappin (Doran Consulting), ICE chairman Philip Brown (Graham), Dervilla Mitchell (Arup), and Girlguiding Ulster executive manager Claire Flowers pose with the activity packs in Arup’s Belfast office.

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PHOTOCALL 6. Daisy McLoughlin and Christian Kennedy join Charles Coyle, General Manager of Tayto Park in Belfast to launch Tayto Park’s new

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2018 season.

7. Aer Lingus marks International Women’s by offering priority boarding to all women departing on UK and European flights from Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Knock and Belfast. Pictured are cabin crew Nicola Dempsey with first officer Anne Kirwan, cabin crew Hannah Brady and captain Kelly Dolan.

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8. Neuro Linguistic Programming trainer Michael Dunlop (right) with Nick Read, Ulster University Business School at a special event in Belfast aimed at informing leaders and managers.

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9. Paul Lee, Deloitte’s global head of research for TMT and Danny McConnell, Deloitte technology partner at Deloitte’s Annual TMT Predictions Breakfast in Belfast.

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10. Rose Mary Stalker with Mid and East Antrim Borough Counci’s chief executive Anne Donaghy launching the Manufacturing Task Force.

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PHOTOCALL 11. Belfast boxer Carl Frampton pictured with Paul Lawther after signing new deal with telecoms firms Onecom.

12. The Institute of Directors Northern Ireland (IoD NI) has appointed Gordon Milligan as its new chairman. He is pictured, centre, with outgoing chairman Ian Sheppard, at the premises of construction firm Henry Brothers, alongside David Henry, managing director of Henry Brothers.

13. Pictured are Joe McGirr, owner of Boatyard Distillery and Jenna Mairs, investment manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners, after the gin-maker received a ÂŁ100,000 investment from the Growth Loan Fund.

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14. Soda & Starch Pantry and Grill head chef Raymond Moran and owner Ciaran O’Neill at the launch of the new restaurant located in the heart of in the Craft Village in Londonderry.

15.Craig Stewart, the Lotus Group, Jana Hussey, store manager, Bonmarche and Leona Barr, centre manager, The Junction inside the new Bonmarche store.

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PHOTOCALL

16. Pictured at Belfast Met are Neueda’s 16 new employees with Brendan Monaghan, chief executive and Paddy O’Hagan, chief operating officer, Neueda.

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17. Davy Hill and Alan McCulla of Seasource pictured in Kilkeel Harbour as it’s revealed London-based fishing company Hooktone has announced its intentions to invest.

18. Ann McGregor, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Paul Murnaghan, regional director of BT Business in Northern Ireland.

19. Vauxhall International North West 200 event director, Mervyn Whyte, joins Donna and Mark Donnelly from the Merrow Hotel and Spa and Burrows Engineering/Cookstown Suzuki boss John Burrows to announce the Merrow Hotel and Spa’s sponsorship of the main feature race at the event in 2018.

20. The Gradon Architecture team pictured after relocating to a new larger studio in Londonderry following its expansion.

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CHAIRMAN

And others turning up included blogger Emer Dooris alongside journalists Claire Craig and Emma Deighan. The menu boasts a host of top en vogue Asian culinary delectations including popular Chinese street food Jiang Bing, fries topped with kimchi - Korean pickled cabbage - along with Pad Thai noodles and taco dishes. To be honest, it’s all right up this Chairman’s street.

The Chairman It’s been another interesting month for the man in the black tie and sharp suit... did he spot you?

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here’s never a dull moment in Northern Ireland’s events calendar. In the last few weeks, there has been a healthy swathe of evenings worthy of The Chairman’s attention. And it wasn’t just the black tie and gala events filling up an already heaving calendar. But someone has to do it. Of course, there was the launch of one of Belfast’s hottest new eating spots - Jumon, based at Fountain Street. The brainchild of restauranteur and chef Nox - hailing from Bangkok and with more than 15 years cooking in kitchens across the globe - Jumon certainly drew a crowd at its swanky official opening. Among those packed into the vibrant spot, which focuses on vegan and vegetarian food was Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster along with restaurant owner Niall Davis.

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Elsewhere, Harlem Cafe in Belfast was the backdrop for the first anniversary of Chris Brown and Arlene O’Connor’s new outfit, Brown O’Connor Communications. And the PR pair, presumably through their years in the industry, certainly know how to draw a crowd. Among those packing into the Bedford Street breakfast and lunch time stalwart was blogger Alan Meban, reporter Clodagh Rice and Glyn Roberts of Retail NI. Others included former SDLP MLA turned entrepreneur, Fearghal McKinney, Nigel Birney from Trade Credit Brokers and Eva Grosman. Around 80 guests attended, made up of clients and contacts. Meanwhile, commentator Alex Kane updated the room on the latest progress, or seemingly lack of, in resolving Northern Ireland’s more than a year of political deadlock, and a lack of devolved government. Now, back to food. Brad Stevens, chief executive of Pizza Punks and Louise McCabe, operations manager, helped launch the Glasgow chain’s first offering in Northern Ireland, at Longbridge House in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter In the world of the black tie, there was some major Northern Ireland success for law firms and professionals services firms alike. KPMG was named Corporate Finance Advisory

Firm of the Year at the Insider Dealmaker Awards in Belfast. The top gong is in recognition of the advisory firm’s involvement in a number of high profile deals throughout 2017, including MML Growth Capital’s investment in Ashdale Care. Russell Smyth, partner, corporate finance, KPMG in Ireland, picked up the award on behalf of the team.

Meanwhile, A&L Goodbody was named Corporate Law Firm of the Year for the third time at the Insider Dealmaker Awards, held at the Waterfront Hall. The firm’s Belfast chairman Peter Stafford was there to pick up the award on the night. And it wasn’t the only law firm walking away with a top accolade. Dealmaker of the Year went to Ciara Lagan of Belfast firm Tughans. As for commercial property on the French Riviera, The Chairman’s invitation to MIPIM, the hottest ticket in town this side of Cannes, must have got lost in the post. Belfast City Council’s top brass made the journey to sell the city as a major investment opportunity. That included boss Suzanne Wylie and director of property and projects, Gerry Millar. And Tourism NI’s John McGrillen was also in Cannes to fly the flag for Northern Ireland. As for the developers, Liverpool hotel boss Lawrence Kenwright also dropped by. He’s planning to build at least four developments in Belfast, including a George Best hotel and an even more ambitious hotel at the former Crumlin Road courthouse. Richland Group boss Gary McCausland was also there. The Northern Ireland developer is planning on turning the Movie House cinema on the Dublin Road in Belfast, into a huge £65m office complex. ■


CHAIRMAN

Niall Davis with Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster and Jumon’s Nox

Emer Dooris, Claire Craig and Emma Deighan at Jumon

Arlene O’Connor pictured with Eva Grosman and Chris Brown

James Crowe, Nicole Crowe and Michael McNeill pictured at Jumon

Alan Meban, Clodagh Rice and Glyn Roberts

Fearghal McKinney, Chris Brown and Nigel Birney

Alex Kane pictured at the Brown O’Connor Communications event

Harlem cafe in Belfast played host to the Brown O’Connor Communications event

Brad Stevens, chief executive of Pizza Punks and Louise McCabe, operations manager of Pizza Punks

Dealmaker of the Year, Ciara Lagan, Tughans (left), is presented with her award by Leigh Yeaman

A&L Goodbody Belfast chairman Peter Stafford and

APRIL 2018

Ciaran Fitzpatrick

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TECHNOLOGY

Fresh phone wars Tech expert Adrian Weckler asks whether Samsung's new S9 can match Apple's game and checks out some mid-range handsets on offer this year

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he new devices look almost exactly the same as the current S8 models (with similar 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch screens).

Pending a longer test, it looks like Samsung may have retaken the cameraphone lead from Apple’s stellar iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus devices.

So what’s their big calling card? One feature: the camera.

The upgrade comes largely due to the new processing capability under the S9’s hood.

Samsung has massively boosted the camera’s low-light performance, with almost a third more light getting in than the Galaxy S8 (which is already one of the top camera phones).

Whenever the handset detects low-light conditions, it automatically reduces the aperture of the main 12-megapixel camera down to an astonishing f1.5, meaning the camera lets more light in than any rival.

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The phone then keeps its low light mojo going by taking 12 separate shots in the instant you think you’ve taken one photo, thanks to new oomph from the 64-bit, octacore 2.7Ghz processor. It then goes through each of the 12 shots in milliseconds, blending the clearest frames with the least ‘noise’ (the fuzzy effect you see when you try to take a photo in very poor light) to create one super-clear photo. The results, which we’ve looked at, are fairly incredible for a smartphone. Detail on items in a dimly-lit room or tube stand out clearly


TECHNOLOGY

Speaking of the camera, the XA2’s 23-megapixel sensor is excellent compared to other phones in its price bracket. You won’t get a better rear camera on a handset under £400, even if its 24mm field of view isn’t to everyone’s tastes. (The iPhone uses a 28mm focal length, which is more flattering as a portrait lens.)

and can be brightened up with relatively little noise on display. The phone also adds super slow-motion video at 960 frames per second, which is replayed back at 720p, the junior level of high definition. This many frames per second is enough to turn 0.2 seconds of recording into six seconds, creating a smooth slow motion snippet. (Samsung isn’t the first to shoot slow motion at this rate, as Sony’s top Xperia handsets have been able to do it for around a year.) Shooting slow motion (usually at 240 frames per second) is common on many smartphones these days. The biggest challenge is usually trying to figure out when to start and stop recording. Samsung’s clever software lets you choose a square box in the screen and when anything ‘passes through’ this box in your video, it automatically triggers the slow-motion recording snippet. File sizes are generally no bigger than normal video clips, either, because of compression and file management. The only thing to know about all of this is that, as with other slow motion effects, it doesn’t really work in poor light. A higher resolution (1080p) slow motion standard is available at 240 frames per second. Otherwise, the S9’s camera shoots 4K at up to 60 frames per second, a very high-end, high resolution standard. Apart from this, the camera arrangement is similar to that on the S8 and S8+. The bigger phone has two rear cameras, both of which have optical image stabilisation. The telephoto lens isn’t quite as friendly to low light, with an f2.4 aperture. Both the S9 and S9+ sport an 8-megapixel front-facing selfie camera. Samsung has added an augmented reality (‘AR’) emoji feature to try and liven things up a little. The idea is that the front-facing camera sensor takes a good look at your face, asks you to smile and then presents you with an animated version of yourself. Once you accessorise (skin tone, hair colour, clothes

APRIL 2018

and glasses) you can then watch it mimic your expressions. The idea is that you can save and share your messages as Gifs or messages, spendable to contacts that use any type of phone. Finally, there’s a new colour: ‘lilac purple’. Samsung claims that this is “on trend” partly because a similar shade (‘ultraviolet blue’) was “voted Pantene colour of the year”. Okay, whatever. Maybe it’s this year’s ‘rose gold’. The other two colours the phones are available in are ‘midnight black’ and ‘coral blue’. Sony has released a series of new models. Chief among these is its mid-range handset, the Xperia XA2. It’s a solid, even impressive device for the money. The first thing you notice about the 5.2-inch phone is its relative heft. Sony isn’t going for light and slim here. Instead, this is a full centimetre thick and weighs 171 grams (about 15% heavier than the iPhone 8). It also has Sony’s distinctively sharpish corner edges, with a bit of a chamfered effect. This latter design style is not a friendly one for trousers or jeans pockets, accelerating the fraying process. It’s stylish, though, and makes the XA2 stand out in a sea of other Android models. The next thing you’ll notice is a dedicated camera button, which Sony has retained for about a decade. I personally like this feature, it allows you to get to your camera function much quicker than on other smartphones.

As for video, the XA2 shoots in 4K as well as ordinary ‘full HD’ video at 60 frames per second and it supports slow-motion video of up to 120 frames per second. Its stabilisation is decent and it also supports ‘HDR video’, which evens out harsher colour contrasts when shooting into shadows or sunlight. An eight-megapixel selfie camera is a lot wider still ('super wide angle', according to Sony), which means it’s even less flattering than the rear camera. It’s a lot more suited to group selfies. In theory it should also be suited to lots of background detail placing a solo selfie in context, but the selfie sensor is much smaller than the rear camera – so you won’t get anything like the same resolution. The phone’s built-in 32GB of storage memory is enough to hold a reasonable amount of photos and video, although there’s also an extra memory card slot that you can take advantage of if you think you’ll shoot more than the phone can hold. The XA2 comes with a fairly impressive 3,300mAh battery, which gives it a very decent all-day performance under normal conditions. There’s a fingerprint-reader on the back of the phone, as is becoming the norm for lots of Android phones. One aspect that might irritate some is the amount of bloatware (sorry, ‘helpful apps from third-party partners’) that Sony still puts on its Xperia phones. Under the hood, there’s easily enough power to keep things running smoothly, with 3GB of Ram and an octacore Snapdragon 630 chipset. It also retains a 3.5mm headphone port. ■

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TRAVEL

Big burger in the Big Apple New York's winter backdrop doesn't just offer up ice-skating and sight-seeing. John Mulgrew finds out Manhattan is also one of the world's top food spots

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here are few cities in the world where a £10 plate of handmade dumplings can make you as happy as a Michelin-starred three course meal.

With flights starting at less than £130 each way you'll have more cash to spend in the city itself.

But New York City, and Manhattan in particular, offers up more to visitors than iconic buildings, tourist attractions, and it's own vast scale and size.

Norwegian flies from Belfast International into Stewart International, which is around 60 miles from Manhattan. But the company operates a direct shuttle bus, which takes you into the heart of the city in around 90 minutes.

Flying from Belfast International Airport, directly to New York with Norwegian, makes a refreshing change from having to connect through a hub elsewhere in the UK.

Now, I've done the tourism thing here before, and it's something everyone should experience at least once in their life. The first time in a city of such dense population and, as a result

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filled with dominating sky-scrapers, means you're likely to spend your first few hours staring upwards – as buildings soar towards the clouds. But once the wave of the sheer scale and freneticism of the Manhattan way of life wears off, you'll have the chance to spend time in a city of many different parts, cultures and – most importantly – cuisines. We stayed at the W Hotel on Lexington Avenue, which is a solid starting point, located at Midtown East.


TRAVEL

Central Park is the obvious green playground in New York, especially when the snow covers everything in a dense, white blanket. But Bryant Park, between Fifth and Sixth avenues offers up a stroll, along with some small popup shops and, in the winter, an ice rink. On the day we landed, the grand fountain in the park had actually frozen, due to the plummeting temperatures. New York also appears to have its own microclimate – ranging from hot, sweaty summers, to crisp and frozen winters. Temperatures dropped as low as the minus mid-teens during our stay. But New York's a city which feels at home when the mercury falls.

Minetta Tavern in New York

With just two and half days to pack in as much exploring and eating, trying to decide on where to choose a restaurant is no easy task.

The star of the show, washed down with Three Philosophers - a Belgian-style quadrupel beer from New York's Ommegang – was the Black Label Burger.

On our first full day, we managed to eat four or five times by early evening – I suggest often and little.

Cooked medium-rare, a soft, rich, almost blue cheese character of dry-aged beef is topped only with very slowly cooked onions, and bun.

Now, if you're looking in the right, or wrong places, you can easily drop the equivalent of the cost of a trip to Manhattan, in one of its top two and three-starred Michelin restaurants.

It's a $33 (£24) burger. It's also one of the best things I've ever eaten. Minetta's also located a short walk away from the Blind Tiger – a staple of the city's beer scene.

Run and owned by Belfast lads Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, and located close to Wall Street right at bottom of the island, the place offers a few choice Irish staples, whiskies, and a tight cocktail menu. A twist on an Old Fashioned was a smooth, leather-tinged dram, while a classic Martini crisp, savoury and boozy. We'll be back. ■

If you're looking for something special, you could try Eleven Madison Park. At the time of writing, voted the greatest restaurant in the world. It's not cheap, but you can get a five-course 'bar' tasting menu for $175 (£125), which offers up the same quality of dining at considerably less than the full seasonal menu. We decided that Manhattan stalwart, and king of the umami-rich dry-aged beef, Minetta Tavern, was the top eating spot for our trip.

But it's not all top-end burgers. One of the best things we ate during the trip was a selection of hearty steamed and fried Chinese dumplings, at the aptly named Tasty Dumpling. A barebones Chinatown staple, we were in and out with soft drinks for $12 (£9). Beer is another thing New York has plenty of. For a short stay, I'd recommend the Rattle N Hum, close to the Empire State Building, Top Hops, Cannibal Beer and Butchery and Draught 55 in Midtown East.

Dark, wood-laden and lively, Minetta's rustic European-French menu delves into all that is classic and cow.

Other food stops along the way included the superb and varied Urbanspace. A plethora of top food and drink businesses nestled in the ground floor of the Vanderbilt building.

A roasted bone marrow starter was all that is gelatinous, slick and buttery, while a classic tartare with uni, provided clean, earthy beef with a solid bite.

As a farewell to the city, while I went into the Dead Rabbit as a cynic – the bar named best in the world on more than one occasion – I left convinced.

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How to get there and travel around You can fly into New York, direct from Belfast International Airport, with Norwegian. Flights out start at £129. As for accommodation, there are hundreds of hotels to choose from. The W Hotel on Lexington Avenue is a reasonably affordable option, while those with deeper pockets may want to try the five-star luxury of the Waldorf Astoria. There are a number of options to get around, with the cheapest being the subway. The other option is hailing a cab. As with most large cities, eating and drinking varies widely, depending on where you are. There's tremendous and good value eating in Chinatown, while spots like Minetta Tavern or the classic Smith and Wollensky.

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MY DAY Uncovering the 9-5

2pm Being on the road means you spend lots of time in coffee shops and hotel receptions. I meet and talk with dozens of people every week. The more you engage, the more you give, the more you get back from people. I’m privileged to have a small army of hugely experienced and skilled advisers on a variety of area, particularly energy, who give their time and expertise for free as they share Manufacturing NI's desire to getting a better deal for those who create wealth and work across NI. 3pm Banks, insurers, professional services firms as well as public bodies have identified manufacturing as an increasingly important part of our economy and want to help it become more successful. They’ve lots of ideas and seek out advice about how they can improve what they do when offering partnerships.

Name: Stephen Kelly Position: Chief executive, Manufacturing NI

7.30am Like pretty much us of all now, mornings see a quick run through emails and Twitter. These could be requests for support from a firm looking for advice on rates, energy or Brexit, some meeting or media requests from home or abroad. One way or another, these quickly redefine what was originally planned for the day. Being on the road, most days, extends the working day by a least four hours, but this brings time to think, draw conclusions and get on the phone before people get to work. 10am Many Belfast meeting and conference organisers seem to think the journey from Derry to Belfast is short although the reverse journey seems to be more than twice as

long. I try not to do any appointments in Belfast before 10am. The past year has seen a flood of Brexit conferences, there’s always something happening in the complex area of energy and, outside of Belfast, there’s a huge amount of work going on in the councils to support the manufacturing sector, particularly in skills development. 12pm I try to call and see a couple of our manufacturers each week. Understanding their issues, seeing where we can help solve problem or celebrating with them. There’s a huge amount of amazing, innovative working going on across Northern Ireland, I just wish they would shout louder about it.

4pm I’m vice-chairman of the NI Assembly Business Trust. Our board meetings are usually late afternoon when the Assembly is sitting (while the Executive isn’t functioning, the Assembly members are still in the building doing constituency or All-Party group work). 7pm The day isn’t over. There’s following up on the day’s meetings, reading (lots) of reports on energy, the latest developments on Brexit and drafting consultation responses. My board are all volunteers so it’s usually the evenings when I get caught up with some of them too as they’re busy running their own businesses. Free time Football or golf are hardly off the TV (well, apart from that six week run of Derry Girls) and when the weather improves I’m usually on a links course somewhere in Donegal or catching up with cooking and family at home.


E V E RY C LO U D

INSURANCE BROKERS & RISK ADVISORS ABBEYBONDLOVIS.CO.UK


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