“The recent turmoil in global financial markets has not yet substantially impacted Invest Northern Ireland clients” Chairman Stephen Kingon said today.
Announcing provisional annual results for 2007/08, he said:
“During 2007–08 we continued to deliver high private-sector investment commitments to strong projects and have met or exceeded substantially all of our operating plan targets. Across all divisions, the number of offers and the amount of assistance have both increased. Whilst this reflects high levels of activity by Invest NI, more importantly, it signals the increasing ambition of our clients to achieve the scale necessary to compete effectively in global markets.
“The value of our advice, expertise and financial support, is reflected partly in the higher investment which this has stimulated. Last year, each pound of taxpayers’ money we offered in support of our clients’ growth plans contributed towards almost £6 of investment planned for the local economy.”
Commenting on the results, Invest NI Chief Executive, Leslie Morrison, said:
“Our support levered a total of £692 million of investment commitments by our clients, 54% of which related to locally owned businesses, ranging from new starts to long-established firms. “Almost 1,500 of our offers, the vast majority, were for less than £10,000, and some 136 were for more than £100,000.
“Most small offers are to locally owned SMEs and their strong showing reflects the performance of our Regional Office Network and Food division, each of which have high proportions of these clients. The Regional Office Network saw a 52% increase in the number of offers approved compared to 2006/07, and the introduction of the Growth Accelerator Programme (GAP) generated a 32% increase in the number of smaller offers made by the Food division, resulting in a 216% increase in assistance offered.
“We achieved a record year in relation to land sales. Over 130 acres of land were sold to clients that are focused on export growth and with an immediate and demonstrable business need. The majority of the sales have been to locally-owned clients wishing to grow in situ.
“The growth ambition of our clients may be reflected in the fact that the “Start Ups” and “Employing people” pages were the most widely viewed of the 750,000 pages visited on our nibusinessinfo.co.uk website during the year.
“That said, Northern Ireland continues to be one of the top performing regions in the UK in attracting foreign direct investment. We have had another very encouraging year and secured 20 new and 14 inward expansion projects. Collectively, these plan to generate over £94 million of salaries each year from the anticipated creation of 2,732 new jobs, many paying well above-average salaries, and the safeguarding of a further 1,546 existing jobs.
“A number of these projects, such as Bank of Ireland Securities Services and Citi, will further progress the development of the financial services sector in Northern Ireland. Software testing and development is often closely allied to financial services carried out in Northern Ireland and new investments by software houses like Fujitsu and 3ParData have enhanced our reputation as a location of choice for accessing such skills.
“Investments such as these take many months, if not years, to bring to fruition. The forthcoming US NI Investment conference provides a unique opportunity to influence the largest and most influential business delegation to have visited Northern Ireland. This will plant the seeds for future investments and is an opportunity we are determined to seize.”
The highlights of the preliminary results for the year ended 31 March 2008 include:
Invest NI made 2,270 offers of assistance totalling £116m, which contributed towards planned investment of £692m
40% of offers approved and 59% of total assistance offered were to clients located in, or proposing to locate in, areas of economic disadvantage.
£43m was provided to clients to develop capability through innovation, business improvement, technology and process development, and trade.
103 new businesses were supported specifically because of their potential to trade in markets outside Northern Ireland from an early stage. A further 3,348 individuals were assisted through the Start a Business Programme and 63 social enterprises were supported.
800 companies participated in a range of trade programmes, including 250 businesses demonstrating their commitment to exporting for the first time. Focused sales and marketing training was delivered to 300 key sales personnel. Companies using Invest NI trade services last year have, so far, reported new business worth £367m.
Sales were completed for 44 sites and three factories, generating income of £18.4m which was returned to the NI block for redistribution. At 130 acres, this was a record year for property sales and is a significant achievement.
In promoting entrepreneurship, 62,510 students participated in entrepreneurship programmes, 12,808 young people were provided advice through Livewire and 5,250 females participated in Women’s Networks.
In conclusion, Stephen Kingon said:
“The NI Executive has pledged to deliver economic outcomes and Invest NI is clearly fulfilling its remit to deliver economic development policies effectively in support of the Programme for Government.
“The strong performance provides us with confidence that the thrust of the draft Corporate Plan (2008/11), which is compliant with aspects of the NI Executive’s Programme for Government and Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland, is correct and that we can deliver against it as fully as the weakening economic cycle will allow. Invest NI is strongly committed to work with its clients to encourage the achievement of challenging targets in relation to export growth, business expenditure in Research and Development, and increased and higher salary levels.
“Although there has not been a significant impact to date from the recent turmoil in global financial markets, we remain vigilant since most domestically and foreign-owned companies in Northern Ireland will not escape its effects. There are indications that businesses, especially within the services sector and construction are tightening their belts, focusing increasingly on cost containment and deferring some investment decisions. “
PROVISIONAL RESULTS FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 MARCH, 2008
Note: Totals may not add due to rounding.