Almac Group, headquartered and controlled in Craigavon, has now become Northern Ireland’s largest profit-earning locally-controlled business.
The group has registered its trading accounts for the year to September 2019 showing that, on a turnover of £634m, pre-tax profits were £47.6m.
Almac, whose name was cleverly chosen to reflect the influence of its main founding investor, Sir Allen McClay, has steadily developed in the last decade, first, advancing its scientific expertise with the help of senior academics at Queen’s University and, second, expanding its operations with over 20 subsidiary companies in the USA and, more recently, eight subsidiaries registered in Ireland. 5,600 people are employed, world-wide, by the group and are based in 18 different facilities across Europe, the USA and Asia. The Almac Group operates within the McClay Foundation.
The group, as part of its recent results, particularly notes that it has received confirmation from the EU’s medicines regulator, post-Brexit, that NI will remain in regulatory alignment with the EU and that EU laws on medicinal products will continue to apply in NI.
For Almac, this conclusion is a consequence of the agreement between the EU and the UK that NI will benefit from the Special Protocol giving NI the benefit of being part of the UK customs area but also having the further advantage, for manufactured goods, of being treated as remaining within the EU regulatory and customs regime.
Group chief executive Alan Armstrong commented that this confirmation is a welcome step ensuring that current and future clients “can continue to receive an unfettered solution with access to both the EU and UK market places”. He added that Almac could now maintain its position as a global leader in the life sciences sector.
In earlier preparation for the possible impact of Brexit (which initially caused some concern about the international trading arrangements affecting the company), Almac established a bespoke manufacturing facility in Dundalk which would have created a seamless form of access to the EU, through Ireland. Now, the Ireland-NI protocol gives further reassurance for the economics of the organisation.
NI is home to a number of privately owned profitable business undertakings which have in recent years been trading successfully. The recent Covid-19 crisis has come just after what may have been the most successful trading year of the past decade. The more successful businesses in recent years have included — with their pre-tax profits noted:
Randox Laboratories and Diaceutics plc are two other notable local medical businesses, which have been ground-breaking but whose results lie outside the top profit makers.
Randox Laboratories recently had what should be an unusual year when the pre-tax results were hit by exceptional one-off charges. Diaceutics is a relatively new science-based company but is showing exceptionally healthy trading results and might be expected to join some of the other businesses as it establishes a longer trading record.
On the basis of the assessment by Almac, many of these Northern Ireland companies will expect to benefit from the Brexit Protocol as they trade in both the UK and also into the EU-27.
Early commentaries on the practical impact of the Brexit Protocol have tended to acknowledge the advantage of near unfettered duty-free access to the wider UK and EU markets but are sometimes clouded with reservations that the administrative processes caused by some of the differing pieces of regulation may prove to be a disincentive to exploit the new arrangements.
NI has an attractive group of businesses linked to life sciences which have the potential to offer further expansion in the future. The NI Executive should be taking a close interest in the agenda of the special Joint Committee which can make decisions to further improve the working of the Protocol.