Japan's Ryobi Group is expanding its European subsidiary, Ryobi Aluminium Casting (UK), at Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, which manufactures and machines engine transmission and clutch casings for automotive companies such as Ford, Jaguar, General Motors, Saab, Isuzu and Visteon.

Japanese-owned Ryobi Aluminium Casting (UK) Limited is expanding its die-casting and machining capacity at Carrickfergus in a new business strategy that will include innovative services to customers in the European automotive industry, Sir Reg Empey MLA, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, said today.

Sir Reg announced the £6.9 million investment as he welcomed Hiroshi Urakami, President of Ryobi Limited of Hiroshima, the parent company of Ryobi Aluminium Casting, to Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the Carrickfergus plant, Sir Reg said:  "This investment will see the Ryobi group add significant value to its existing operation in Northern Ireland.  The endorsement of the Carrickfergus plant is tremendously encouraging news for East Antrim and for the wider engineering industry in Northern Ireland.

"The decision to position this factory to offer additional services and to work with customers on innovative projects is an important measure of the  

Japanese group's confidence in the talents and motivation of its employees here.

"It is also significant that Northern Ireland has now won substantial investments from three global industry leaders from different business sectors and from three different nations this year:  Ryobi of Japan is one of the world leaders in aluminium die-casting; B/E Aerospace of the USA is the world's leading manufacturer of civilian aircraft seats; and Ritek from Taiwan is the international market leader in optical storage technology.

"Three provincial towns, Carrickfergus, Kilkeel and Omagh, will benefit enormously from these investments by companies of such international standing in terms of the wealth creation that will result from the injection of fresh investment in new skills, additional employment and in business opportunities for local suppliers.

"Recent commitments by Ryobi and other world class companies add weight to initiatives by Invest NI to attract further inward investment projects from key sectors by working closely through its regional network, with district councils, community representatives and the universities to sharpen regional investment propositions," added Sir Reg.

John Hughes, Managing Director, Ryobi Aluminium Casting (UK) Limited, commenting on the investment, said: "This is a significant project that will enable us to build on a customer base that has expanded from an initial customer, Ford, to now include Jaguar, Isuzu, Saab, General Motors and Visteon through the development of our machining service. This will enable us to offer vehicle manufacturers a finished part ready for the assembly line.

"Sales have almost trebled as European automotive companies have come to recognise the superb quality of our products, our strong customer-facing approach and the overall flexibility of the operation here in Carrickfergus.

"This reputation and in particular the strong base of engineering skills that we have here will be exceptionally important as we implement a key feature of our strategy which focuses on partnerships with manufacturers in the development of next generation components," he added.