Belfast Telegraph

Diaceutics plc fears recruitment of talent may be hit by Brexit

On track: Peter Keeling
On track: Peter Keeling
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A Northern Ireland pharma analytics company has said it fears Brexit could hamper its ability to attract talent in the future.

Diaceutics plc, which has premises in Belfast, Dundalk and other locations around the world, yesterday reported a loss of £2m for the first half of 2019. That was up from a first-half loss of £1.4m in 2018.

But revenues at the firm, which listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) earlier this year, were up 34% to £4.4m.

The company said the losses followed costs of £1.4m related to its initial public offering. It also repaid £3.3m in loan and bank facilities.

Staff numbers also grew from 57 to 89 at the business, which advises pharma companies on their medical testing so that they can deliver more personalised medicine.

But the firm said it was concerned that Brexit may hamper its ability to attract well-qualified people from overseas locations to its laboratory and data analytics roles.

Chief executive Peter Keeling said the £2m loss did not come as a disappointment to the company.

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He said: "When you go through an initial public offering there's always the spectre that you take your eye of the rest of the organisation, but that has not happened here. We have had a strong first half allowing us to be well on track for the full year.

"We have paid down our debts and invested in data and, although it's only been a short time since we had our IPO, we've continued to invest in the core fundamentals."

Philip White, the company's chief financial officer, said the company had grown its client numbers by 38% to reach 30 including many household-name pharma firms. According to IPO documents, clients include giants Novartis, AztraZeneca and Pfizer.

Mr White said: "We have expanded our footprint now to 87 people in 18 different countries. In Northern Ireland in our head office at the moment there are 35 though we expect to hire another 12 on the island, with the majority probably in data analytics."

He said he did not expect Brexit to hit the firm's sales, with a large percentage of revenue in dollars.

"Where we will see a long-term impact will be if there are fewer talented people coming to the UK as a result. That is a more long-term and slower pain," he added.

Mr Keeling said he expected full year results to show a positive profit, with the firm expected to make 70% of its profitability in the second half. He added the IPO process had been "really good" for its Belfast operation and for boosting overall recognition.

Belfast Telegraph