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We could deal with EU departure, says First Derivatives boss as company's revenues up 40%

By Margaret Canning

Published 18/05/2016

First Derivatives boss Brian Conlon
First Derivatives boss Brian Conlon

The chief executive of financial software firm First Derivatives plc has said tackling "cataclysmic" events like the fall of Lehman Brothers has left it equal to facing the consequences of Brexit.

Brian Conlon, who has maintained headquarters of the now-international firm in his home city of Newry, spoke as the business unveiled a 40% jump in revenue to £117m in its results for the year to the end of February.

The company, which employs 1,600 people worldwide and is one of just three listed companies in Northern Ireland, saw a 29% jump in its consulting revenue to £75m, while software revenue sky-rocketed 69% to £42m.

Pre-tax profit showed a 41% decline to £10.4m, but the previous year's figure had included a £9.6m gain from the disposal of investments.

Chairman Seamus Keating said progress in the group had resulted in "record" results which had positioned the company strongly for the future.

"In consulting we are becomingly involved in client projects earlier and in a more strategic way, leading to deeper relationships and enabling us to maintain our high level of revenue visibility as we scale up.

"In software, technology trends continue to move in favour of our Kx technology platform, which is world-leading in its big, fast data capabilities."

The company's financial and investment bank clients are based all over the world, including the EU.

But Mr Conlon said he was unlikely to shift its headquarters to the Republic in the event of a vote to leave.

"I think my mum wouldn't be too happy about that, as she wouldn't see me at lunchtimes any more.

"But we pride ourselves on having been able to deal with any number of cataclysmic events in capital markets, such as Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy.

"If the Brexit does go ahead, it will take a number of years - maybe between five and 10 - to work through all the different permutations.

"We'll react to whatever does happen."

Chief finance officer Graham Ferguson said the company would maintain its dual focus on consulting and software - despite a discrepancy in revenues of £75m for consulting and £42m for software.

"The higher margin returns will come in software over time."

And he said the company's software was breaking into vertical markets such as pharmaceuticals, utilities and digital marketing. That strategy had led to deals with Hitachi and SAP, among others.

Its software had also been adopted by the Ontario Regulator for the capture and analysis of data from its smart meters, showing uses of FD software for energy production.

The company has around 1,600 employees with many engaged on overseas projects.

Mr Conlon said the firm still had 18 months left in which it would be creating jobs under an investment plan supported by Invest NI. "That's not to say we're not currently recruiting aggressively, as our graduate intake so far this year has amounted to around 250 people," he added.

Belfast Telegraph

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