Belfast Telegraph

Caterpillar cost-cutting as it sells off building amid falling sales

Manufacturing firm has already announced 250 job cuts in NI

By John Mulgrew

Cost-cutting is continuing at Caterpillar NI as the manufacturing giant sees its turnover fall by more than £80m and sales to Europe slashed in half.

The generator-maker is selling off one of its Belfast offices, after announcing 250 jobs cuts across Northern Ireland last year as part of global downsizing. It's also warned that "much uncertainty continues to exist" around Brexit.

The firm, which has a manufacturing base and offices in west Belfast, is selling off a three-storey building at its Springvale site for £475,000.

It's understood that staff at Springvale have been consolidated into a larger office building, also based at the site, following job cuts revealed late last year,

Now, accounts for Caterpillar (NI) Ltd, show sales fell from £537m to £455m in the year to December 31, 2016.

The former FG Wilson business has its base at Larne, as well as manufacturing, sales and administration at Springvale.

However, it is winding down and closing its Monkstown operation.

Caterpillar's latest accounts show the company managed to turn a £5m loss into a pre-tax profit of more than £10m due, to what it said, was a large one-off impairment charge of more than £9m.

The company said that the accounts were "favourably impacted" for a "recharge of consulting charges incurred in prior years".

However, the US-owned business said it was "adversely impacted by £858,000 of asset impairments related to the consolidation of those continuing operations".

The property being sold off includes a three-storey stand-alone office building of concrete frame construction.

A spokesman for Caterpillar said: "We continually seek ways to improve the efficiency of our business.

"As a result, a small number of employees have relocated from a peripheral building at the Springvale Business Park to the main office at the site."

The building which it is selling off is based across 10,600 sq ft.

The US company revealed that it was restructuring its business in Northern Ireland as part of global cutbacks across the business back in September last year.

The firm will have a period of consultation to determine the spread of the losses over the next year.

Speaking about the reduction in staff and cutbacks, the firm said that "2016 also saw the decision made to discontinue the manufacturing of the 'wheeled material handler' product and a process of consolidating manufacturing activity into two sites was begun".

The company, in its latest accounts, said a 'Brexit' team "continues to assess potential impacts across all aspects of our business".

"With negotiations having now started, much uncertainty continues to exist and so this work continues considering all cases, including 'worst case scenarios' to the business," it said.

That includes no "tariff-free access to the single market" and "being outside the customs union".

According to the latest accounts, overall sales to the UK fell from £104m to £74m in the last year. But it was sales to the rest of Europe which took the biggest hit - dropping by almost half, from £261,to £133m.

However, sales outside of Europe increased from £171m to £247m.

Belfast Telegraph

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