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...and firm leads way in UK list

Four Northern Ireland manufacturers employing a total of 8,200 staff will appear in a chart of the private firms making the strongest contribution to the UK economy.

Craigavon pharma giant Almac is the highest-ranked firm from the province, and is placed at number 31 with sales of £394m in the Sunday Times Grant Thornton Top Track 250.

At £29m, the drug company's profits are also the highest of the Northern Ireland cohort.

The three remaining Northern Ireland high-flyers are all founder-run private companies.

Ballymena bus manufacturer Wrights Group is at number 83, with sales of £238m.

And veterinary pharmaceutical giant Norbrook Laboratories, which is based in Newry and owned by the Haughey family, is at number 102 with £216m in sales.

Concrete and civil engineering company FP McCann in Magherafelt is at number 138 with sales of £183m.

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All four firms had increased their combined sales by 20% to £1bn and their operating profits 64% to £82m.

The Top Track 250 - which ranks the UK private mid-market growth companies with the biggest sales - is published in the Sunday Times this weekend.

All four Northern Ireland companies are newcomers to the list and join household names including football club Arsenal, clothing firm Barbour, footwear maker Dr Martens and chicken chain Nando's.

Last year's list featured Northern Ireland firms Lissan Coal Company, Ballyvesey Holdings, Graham, Tayto and Chain Reaction Cycles.