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Co Down aerospace firm hopeful of landing more contracts on back of $1m Chinese deal

By Margaret Canning

Published 07/09/2016

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton (right) with Datum directors Michael Maguire (left) and John Getty
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton (right) with Datum directors Michael Maguire (left) and John Getty

Co Down aerospace company Datum Tool Design has said a deal worth $1m with a Chinese firm could be followed by another two contracts in the territory.

The Ballynahinch firm, which works with big aerospace firms such as Bombardier and Airbus, announced a deal with X'ian Aircraft Corp.

Director Michael Maguire said the deal was its first direct order with a Chinese company - and that it is working on securing another two big orders in China.

It currently employs 23 people, and the deal will enable it to create 13 new jobs for skilled engineers. It specialises in designing composite tooling and recently invested £875,00 in its manufacturing operations.

Mr Maguire said: "A number of new aircraft programmes are being introduced to meet increasing demand for air travel and enhancing our manufacturing capabilities and workforce will enhance the scope to target emerging markets."

News of the contract came as HMRC figures showed exports from Northern Ireland surged by 9.5% over the last 12 months, with sales to the US accounting for the biggest increase.

But there was a fall of 6.5% between the first and second quarter, with the value of exported goods shrinking to £861m. According to HMRC, exports to non-EU countries such as China grew by 24% in the year ending June 2016, to reach £3.2bn. Firms from here saw their sales across the pond surge by 73.9%.

However, with only 2% of Northern Ireland businesses exporting - and industry giants like Bombardier and Almac accounting for 50% of all exports - it is understood that the US surge can be attributed to just one or two companies.

Sales to the Republic fell 2.5% year-on-year, and total sales to the EU were down 1.1%.

Exports of machinery and transport items - a category which includes bus builder Wrightbus - increased from £573m to £600m.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said the 9.5% increase was "hugely encouraging" - particularly given that sales by Scotland, England and Wales had slumped. He added: "This is a signal that the Executive's strategy of having a strong focus on exports and supporting businesses to expand into new markets is working."

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ann McGregor said: "The HMRC figures show a small decline in exports for quarter two of the year, mainly down to fewer pharmaceuticals being exported to North America.

"There seems to be no immediate fallout from Brexit or from the run-up to the referendum, which isn't surprising given the boost to exporters from the weaker pound."

Belfast Telegraph

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