Belfast Telegraph

Pre-tax profits double to £5.5m at wood pellet producer Balcas

The workforce at Balcas grew to 367 last year
The workforce at Balcas grew to 367 last year
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Northern Ireland's biggest wood pellet manufacturer saw pre-tax profits more than doubled to £5.5m last year, according to a new report.

Co Fermanagh company Balcas, which had 367 workers on its books during 2018, saw its turnover rise 15.6% last year to £97.9m.

Alongside a sawmill near Ballinamallard, the firm produces wooden pellets under the Brites brand in separate plants in Co Fermanagh and Scotland.

Energy group SHV Holdings has been the largest shareholder in Balcas since 2007.

In 2015 the Dutch company took a majority stake in excess of 75%.

The new company report from Balcas Timber Ltd showed it entrenched its position as one of the UK and Ireland's largest wood product suppliers during 2018, making capital investments totalling £6.2m during the year, almost three times the sum invested during 2017.

The firm said it would help secure the competitiveness of the business going forward.

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The company's headquarters lies on a 72-acre site near Devenish Island on the Killadeas Road in Co Fermanagh, where it operates a sawmill with an annual capacity of 268,000 cubic metres of sawn timber.

Balcas produces 55,000 tonnes of Brites pellets on the site every year. It also generates electricity on the site through a 14MW pellet-run boiler.

Its Scottish operation produces almost double the volume of pellets (100,000 tonnes) and runs a much larger 34MW boiler. The company says it generates more electricity from renewable sources that it uses on its combined sites.

According to the new accounts, Balcas recruited an additional 27 people over the year. The bulk of its workforce, some 294, were employed in the production end of the business last year. Around 47 were employed in sales and distribution, with a further 26 in administration.

Staff costs for Balcas Timber Ltd during 2018 reached £13.6m, up from £12.1m in 2017. The company's pension contribution last year was £416,000.

The firm's two directors shared £166,000 in remuneration last year.

In April workers at Balcas took part in industrial action over pay and conditions.

The strike ended with staff voting overwhelming to accept a pay offer, reportedly worth more £1,000 per worker in the first year, with a pay increase above inflation in year two.

Belfast Telegraph

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