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Invest NI article was misleading and inaccurate

Published 23/09/2015

I am writing following a piece that appeared in your paper entitled 'A string of dubious decisions by Invest NI leaves taxpayers nursing a whopping £23m loss' (News, September 17).

Firstly, the article claims that "investments made by Invest NI have left Northern Ireland taxpayers facing a massive £23m loss". This statement is inaccurate and misleading.

The £23m quoted is derived from our Annual Report & Accounts 2014-15, where it is reported as a debt provision for a potential future loss and not an actual loss.

When making an investment in a company, a provision will be made that could result in a loss. Often, this is until such times as the business generates a profit. Therefore the £23m stated in your article relates simply to an accounting treatment and not an actual loss to the taxpayer.

Your article further states that "£27m was ploughed into 170 NI firms that have since gone bust". This statement is also inaccurate and misleading: £15.8m relates to companies which are no longer trading, yet you claim in your article that this is a figure of £27m. Investment in start-ups and early-stage businesses remain an important component of our package of support. In doing this, we are helping to fill the funding gap created by a tightening of bank lending and changes to EU grant policy.

We recognise from the outset that, by its very nature, these offers of support may lead to a higher risk position being adopted by us compared to other lenders.

While your article states that there is "no suggestion of any impropriety on the part of anyone involved in these liquidated firms, or in Invest NI", the way the information has been presented implies the contrary.

Your article also implies that Invest NI has provided you with a statement, when in reality you used information taken from the response to a Freedom of Information request and subsequent clarifications and details taken from our annual report.

We were not given the right to reply and this has resulted in an inaccurate and misleading article which positions Invest NI unfairly.

ALASTAIR HAMILTON

Chief executive, Invest Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph

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