Belfast Telegraph

Norbrook chief calls for transition period with no-deal Brexit 'off table'

By Ryan McAleer

Veterinary pharmaceutical firm Norbrook Holdings has said it is in the process of stockpiling six months worth of products for its EU customers ahead of Brexit day on March 29.

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The Newry-based company has also revealed that it has spent £3m transferring more than 2,000 product licenses from a UK holding company to a European firm to ensure it can continue to sell into the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Calling for a no-deal Brexit to be taken off the table, Norbrook boss Liam Nagle yesterday appealed for businesses to be given a period of transition, stating that leaving the EU without a deal would have a disproportionate impact on Northern Ireland.

The chief executive spoke as the pharma firm, which employs just under 2,000 people, reported an 8% dip in pre-tax profits to £45m for the year to August 3, 2018.

While Norbrook Holdings continued to grow last year, revenue rose just 1% to £275m, a more subdued performance than the 14% surge in sales seen last year.

North America continues to be an area of strong growth, with revenues up 15%, boosted by new dairy products. Norbrook's increasing focus on products for domestic pets saw sales of such medicines rise 12%.

The company also continues to invest heavily in capital projects and research and development.

Despite describing 2018 as "another solid year", Mr Nagle was clear on the major challenge Brexit is providing for the industry.

"As an export company, with 85% of our revenue generated outside the UK, any barriers to trade, tariff and non-tariff, will impact on our competitiveness," he said.

"We have an integrated supply chain, with a global supply base, which relies on frictionless trade, and we urge all those directly involved to work together to avoid a no-deal Brexit, the impact of which I believe would be disproportionately felt in Northern Ireland.

"Our position on Brexit is clear. Take no-deal off the table and give us a period of transition."

The chief executive said Norbrook is continuing to invest heavily in measures to mitigate against the impact of Brexit, including renting storage space to stockpile both raw materials and finished products.

"We've invested heavily in carrying more raw material inventory, everything from chemical excipients to packaging," he said.

"We're also planning to build additional finished goods that we wouldn't normally carry, so we're trying to protect our European customers.

"We've worked very hard in the last year," he explained, describing the effort involved in transferring 2,000 products licenses out of the UK as "a massive amount of regulatory work".

"Business is here to react to the reality. It's the right thing to do," he added.

Belfast Telegraph