Belfast Telegraph

Allstate's future in Ulster 'secure despite £1.7m loss'

By Margaret Canning

Allstate Northern Ireland, the province's biggest IT firm, made a loss of £1.7m during 2014, according to its latest accounts.

But the firm, one of the major foreign direct investors in Northern Ireland with 2,200 employees in three locations, said its future was secure.

The loss was due to a revaluation of its derivative portfolio influenced by the sterling/dollar exchange rate.

The company delivers IT and business processing services to its ultimate parent company, insurance giant the Allstate Corporation in the US.

Without the impact of the derivatives, the firm said it would have made pre-tax profits of £7.8m. Last year its profits were £4.6m.

A strategic report by the company's directors said: "The profitability is impacted by the movement in the valuation of the derivative portfolio, which is a result of the size of the portfolio, the contract exchange rates, and the spot exchange rate at each respective year end.

"The fair value of derivatives generated a loss of £10.9m in 2014 compared to a gain of £3.3m in 2013."

Turnover was up from £83.8m to £89.5m, mainly due to bill rate increases as a result of exchange rate movements.

The company added: "In 2015 the company expects to maintain a stable headcount while continuing to balance profitability with global competitiveness."

The directors' report added that the company was "well placed to manage its business risks. The company has sufficient financial resources and does not expect to require any funding from the parent company or other sources in the foreseeable future.

"However, in the event of an extreme downturn in the US dollar to sterling exchange rate, the company can avail of a parent company loan facility of up to $30m, to cover potential collateral payments on derivatives contracts."

The company's managing director, Bro McFerran, retired this year and has been replaced by American Opal Perry as interim managing director.

After stepping down in April as managing director, Mr McFerran - whose full name is Arthur J McFerran - remains as a non-executive director.

The company has operated here since 1998 and now employs more than 2,200 people across three sites in Belfast, Londonderry and Strabane.

The Belfast firm has submitted planning permission for a new building beside the former Maysfield Leisure Centre in the east of the city. It's understood Allstate agreed to buy the area from Belfast City Council for an undisclosed sum. The site had been on the market for £1.7m.

The company was set up as Northbrook Technology, before being rebranded 10 years later under the Allstate banner.

Belfast Telegraph