Belfast Telegraph

Indicator reveals a slump in enterprise

By Margaret Canning

Entrepreneurial activity in Northern Ireland has slumped in the past year, according to one measure of enterprise within companies.

The entrepreneurs' index from Barclays uses shareholder changes recorded in annual returns as evidence that a company is growing.

Using data from Companies House, it focuses on growing businesses with turnovers of £5m to £200m. According to the latest index, the average profitability of growing private businesses in Northern Ireland which were recording shareholder changes had almost tripled from £0.5m to £1.3m in the year to the end of 2012. Manufacturing and other 'industrial' companies accounted for more than half the growing firms. But the number of growing private businesses who qualified as "entrepreneurial" because of shareholder changes fell by one third from 418 at the end of 2011 to 279 in the second half of 2012.

The index operates on the basis that a change in shareholding will be due to a 'liquidity event' as individuals transfer or sell their stake in a business.

Jonathan Dobbin, head of Barclays Wealth and Investment Management in Northern Ireland, said: "Firms in Northern Ireland have had to become more competitive in the past couple of years. This rise in profits that we have seen can be put down to businesses adapting to drive down costs and survive in a changed marketplace."

He said that the fall in the number of companies reporting share changes was because there were "fewer opportunistic transactions". "Firms are no longer buying at the bottom of the market," he said.

The market had also matured, Mr Dobbin said. "The companies in Northern Ireland are some of the oldest in the UK and Ireland, with the average firm undergoing shareholder changes being 27 years old. This shows a mature market and the companies doing well are long-established, with tried and tested models."

London saw the largest upturn as the number of companies with shareholdings changing hands was up 36%. Outside the capital, it was up 23%.


Average age of firms undergoing shareholder changes here

Belfast Telegraph