Belfast Telegraph

Caterpillar profits hit by slump in sales and job losses

By Margaret Canning

Generator maker Caterpillar NI in Larne has reported an 85% slump in profits to £3.8m.

Profitability at the company formerly known as FG Wilson - part of US machinery giant Caterpillar Inc since 1999 - fell from last year's high of £28.7m.

But turnover was down by only 4% from £626.25m to £600m at the company, which announced 35 job losses in its electric power division earlier this year.

And it sold 20,541 of its generator sets during 2014, down from 27,923 a year earlier.

Sales to the rest of the EU accounted for nearly half of turnover, at £276.27m, with sales down 8.6%.

North America accounted for the steepest slump in sales, down 72% to £8.46m.

Sales to the UK actually grew 52.8% to £127.99m - and sales to the rest of the world were down 10.7% to £187.4m.

Managing director Robert Kennedy said the company, which also has production facilities in Brazil, China and India, remained "strongly committed" to Northern Ireland despite the profits slump.

"Caterpillar NI made a profit of £3.8m before tax in 2014, despite very challenging global economic conditions and taking account of a number of significant one-off costs and investments in the business," he said.

"We remain strongly committed to developing and diversifying our operations in Northern Ireland, and have made considerable progress in this regard with the commencement of wheeled material handler production and the production of articulated truck axles, both of which will bear fruit into the future."

A separate statement by Mr Kennedy filed with the accounts said 2014 had been another year of "depressed global economic conditions, impacting the demand for the company's primary electricity power products".

He added: "Attention remains focused on margin improvement, as well as the development of new products offerings to protect and enhance competitiveness in the electric power sector."

And overall, a directors' report was positive about the company's future. "The directors believe that the company is well placed to expand by gaining market share and by the introduction of new products and services," it said.

The headcount at the firm - which has sites in Springvale, west Belfast, as well as Larne and Monkstown - was down from 1,947 to 1,883.

The firm began diversifying its activities in Northern Ireland in 2013, when it started the production of articulated truck axles.

It started wheeled material handler production a year later.

The financial statements said the company was exposed to some foreign exchange risk, as revenues and expenses were denominated in sterling, while sales and costs were in US dollars. But the firm said it did not use third party financial instruments to hedge its exposure to foreign exchanges.

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The drop in profits reported by Caterpillar, formerly FG Wilson

Belfast Telegraph