Belfast Telegraph

Invest NI may seek portion of £5m grant

A company which is set to close a factory in east Belfast received over £5m in grants, it has emerged.

Baker Hughes last week announced it would close the Castlereagh Hughes Christensen drill bit factory with the loss of |210 jobs.

A spokesman for Invest NI last night confirmed the company had received millions of pounds in grants since 1995, of which £500,000 may be clawed back.

Between 1995 and 2002, the |Industrial Development Board — Invest NI’s predecessor — granted Hughes Christensen £4.5m in support, though all the conditions for the grants were met.

In 2007, the agency offered |the company £900,000 towards an investment project. The spokesman said £500,000 |which had been paid out could be chased up by Invest NI, if the company proceeded to shut the business after the 90 day consultation period.

He said: “If the company becomes in breach of our letter of offer, we will need to take a view as to the amount which we are |entitled to claw back.”

SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness, chairman of the enterprise committee, told the BBC: “It was money well invested, initially, in this plant. But, now with the fact the plant is going to be closed, it seems to raise a question as to whether that money should or should not be recouped.

“In my view, there is a good case for recouping that money because otherwise we're going to be taken for a ride by other firms who are just coming here looking for grants.”

Some funding received since 2002 had been put towards manufacturing a new diamond coated drill bit in Belfast, which will now be made at other facilities.

Hughes Christensen said it was pulling out because of a fall in demand. In a statement the firm's parent company, Baker Hughes, said its operations would be transferred to its base in Texas.

The company made 135 staff redundant last year. “We had hoped that the redundancies we made during 2009 would allow us to continue bit manufacturing at the Woodlands, Texas, and here in Belfast,” the company said.

“However, we have determined, in the face of expectations for |significantly weaker demand for Tricone bits, that we can only support a single facility to make these bits.”

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