Belfast Telegraph

Brexit: More Northern Ireland firms may follow Almac and expand in Republic

By Margaret Canning

At least a dozen Northern Ireland firms are considering following pharma firm Almac by adding operations in the Republic in the wake of Brexit, it's been claimed. The Craigavon firm announced it was opening premises in Dundalk to ensure access to the single market.

But the company said it was retaining its main premises in Craigavon - the location closely linked to its late founder Sir Allen McClay - and that the Dundalk facility was a support centre.

Almac, which makes pharmaceutical products for other drug firms, has received funding from the IDA - the Republic's inward investment body - to set up the Dundalk office, which will employ 100 people over the next two years.

Almac already has premises in Athlone.

Almac said: "The new premises increase the group's European footprint by 32,000sq ft and provides continued presence within the EU in the long-term."

Chief executive Alan Armstrong said it was the latest of its "ambitious global expansion plans".

Mark O'Connell of inward investment advisers OCO Global said the move would be followed by others. He said he knew of around 12 who were "pondering similar hedging strategies".

"Almac is among over 150 indigenous Northern Ireland firms in the health life sciences space - which employ 7,500 people and export over £1bn.

"European regulation, access to skills and EU research and development funding is an even more important aspect of the single market which is in jeopardy, so I do not think this will be the last example from this sector."

In November Almac said it was extending in Craigavon by building a new lab and new offices. It's also invested in its North American premises in Philadelphia by creating 300 jobs - bringing its total global headcount to 5,000.

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland, said: "Almac's decision to expand into Dundalk provides the company with certainty of access to the EU in the long-term - this certainty of access is an increasingly important selling point for Ireland as we look to win business for Ireland.

"IDA Ireland will continue to promote Ireland as an ideal location for companies from a range of sectors, including pharmaceuticals, IT and financial services that are looking to ensure that they have a presence in the European single market."

Asked for comment on Almac opening in Dundalk to ensure access to the single market, a spokeswoman for IDA's counterpart Invest NI said: "It is great news to see one of Northern Ireland's leading life sciences companies continue to expand.

"As a Northern Ireland-headquartered business the continued growth of The Almac Group will ultimately benefit the Northern Ireland economy."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain and America will be able to start tearing down trade barriers before the UK leaves the EU.

Speaking in the US ahead of her meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office today, Mrs May said she believed that both sides will see economic advantages even before they are able to begin talks on a free trade agreement.

Belfast Telegraph