The head of a Brazilian outsourcing firm with 17,000 employees worldwide has said he could open a centre in Northern Ireland.
Marco Stefanini of Stefanini IT Solutions said he had considered setting up an office in the Republic but that the high cost of labour had put him off, saying: "They became a little bit expensive to do business process outsourcing or near shore services."
But Northern Ireland, with the growing emphasis by Invest NI on its potential as a centre for outsourcing, was "a very interesting opportunity" which could be explored by the company's UK sales director, the chief executive said.
Mr Stefanini was speaking from Monte Carlo, where he is flying the flag for Brazil in the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year Competition.
He is competing against 46 others from around the world, including Ireland's Dr Edmond Harty, chief executive and technical director of Dairymaster, which manufactures milking machines and other equipment for dairy farms around the world.
Mr Stefanini said he had not held talks with the economic development agency but would like to be introduced.
Stefanini currently has offices in London and Uxbridge – and 30 other countries around the world – with UK clients including Jaguar Land Rover and pharmaceutical firm Boehringer Ingelheim. Mr Stefanini would not discuss the issue of corporation tax for global firms but did say his native country's rate of tax is "usually in general a little bit high".
"I prefer not to comment a lot on this because in my life I learn that you need to understand the details when you discuss and give opinions or you can talk a lot of bull****."
The possibility of stronger links between the UK and Brazil was being explored. "The UK government is trying to be close to the Brazilian government. I am very sympa (favourable) towards your country (the UK)," he said.
There was an accord between Brazil and the UK, JETCO, to promote trade and foster a better business climate. "I lead the private sector from the Brazilian side," he said.
He said he met the British Ambassador in Brazil and held a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron during a visit.
"We discussed moving our European headquarters from Brussels to the UK and also discussed opportunities to provide services for the UK government.
"One year ago I was also a guest of the Government at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games."
He visited Ireland three years ago and visited Belfast, including a tour of the city's peace walls. He had considered a centre in the Republic but said: "The labour force wasn't at that time so big and the cost of labour is not so competitive for offering near-shore services."
Number of people employed by Stefanini IT Solutions worldwide7m
Number of new homes that need to be built in Brazil23.5m
Number of new homes to be built in Brazil by 2022