Northern Ireland

Craigavon-based company Almac makes record turnover

Almac
Image caption Almac's global headquarters is in Craigavon, County Armagh

Pharmaceutical company Almac made a pre-tax profit of £27m on a record turnover of £548m in 2018.

The company, which has its headquarters in Craigavon, County Armagh, said it had been "another strong year."

Profits are down from the £33m achieved in 2017, reflecting a higher level of investment spending.

The firm has been developing its facilities in Dundalk and Athlone in the Republic of Ireland.

In 2017, Almac bought the Dundalk factory as a direct result of Brexit.

A major part of the Almac business is making products and conducting tests for big drugs firms.

It told a House of Commons committee its customers needed it to have a guaranteed presence in the EU for regulatory reasons.

Staff numbers rose by 8% during 2018 to just under 4,800.

Almac is considered to be one of Northern Ireland's most successful firms and is one of the region's major exporters.

Aside from its operations in Northern Ireland and the Republic, it also has major facilities in England and the US.

Group chief executive Alan Armstrong said: "We have made significant progress on our ambitious growth strategy with the acquisition of BioClin Laboratories and the continued investment in our existing global facilities."

'Waiting for Brexit'

Meanwhile, an economist has said the Northern Ireland economy is "in permanent state of anticipation".

Gareth Hetherington, director of Ulster University's economic policy centre, expects the Northern Ireland economy to grow by 1.2% next year, down from 1.3% this year.

"We are in this permanent state of anticipation. We are waiting for Brexit to be resolved, we are waiting for ministers to return to Stormont," he said.

"Certainly there's nothing in the short term that would suggest Brexit is going to be resolved quickly, or what's going to happen with talks on the hill. But expectations are that it could be the end of the year at least, before we see a return to devolution."

Image caption Ulster University has published its economic outlook for the year ahead

"We have been going through these consecutive short term periods of uncertainty, that's starting to turn into a long term period of uncertainty. That makes it very difficult for businesses to make investment decisions," he added.

He was speaking as Ulster University published its outlook for the year ahead.

It said that while much of the current economic data is positive, the outlook remains cautious.

Employment is at a record high, with 71% of the working age population in work.

But this report says broader global tensions are creating uncertainty and it says that is likely to result in lower economic growth.

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