Portadown manufacturer Ulster Carpets grows turnover to £68.4 million

Prince Charles visiting Ulster Carpets last year on a visit to Northern Ireland. The company has reported a seven per cent rise in turnover for the year to £68.4 million. Picture by Andrew Paton/Press Eye

PORTADOWN manufacturer Ulster Carpets has grown its turnover by seven per cent in a year boosted by strong sales totalling £68.4 million and Brexit.

The company – one of Northern Ireland's leading exporters, has reported an "excellent" financial year, with increases in profits, profit margins and staff numbers. The increases are significant given the fact the firm completed two major acquisitions in the financial year, worth a combined £7 million.

The annual accounts, published on Companies House show gross profits have risen from £25.4 million to £28.2 million in the year ending March 31, 2017 in addition to the substantial surge in turnover.

Staff numbers increased by 13 per cent from 564 to 640 over the year, resulting in an upturn in the firm's annual wage bill of £4 million to £24.3 million.

In his chairman's statement Edward Wilson said he was delighted to report another "strong trading performance".

"As in 2015/16 our plants ran at full capacity during the year and we saw increases in sales in most areas in which we trade. I can only repeat my comment from last year that this excellent result is all the more commendable in the context of several of our competitors persisting in offering product at prices which do not reflect anything like the real costs of design and manufacture."

In addition to the acquisition of English companies Roger Oates Design (£2.2 million) and Griffith Textile Machines (£4.73 million) - the UK's premier supplier of specialist equipment for the textile and other industries, the firm also invested in its Danish subsidiary and carried out substantial re-developments at its Portadown manufacturing plant over the year, including the construction of a new high-technology dye house.

The next phase of redevelopment at the Portadown site includes new weaving machines along with a high tech finishing plant, while the company has said it "remains alert" to possible further appropriate acquisition opportunities.

"At a time when other manufacturers are cutting back on investment or diverting their manufacturing plants to low labour cost countries, the Ulster Group will continue to demonstrate its confidence in the skills, experience, commitment, versatility and ingenuity of its employees in the UK, in Denmark and in our sales and design offices overseas," Mr Wilson said.

In his chairman's comments Mr Wilson further highlighted the "momentous" Brexit vote, which at this stage has had a positive effect on the company's operations.

"The full impact of this will only become evident after the next two or more years of negotiations over the terms of what is now universally known as Brexit. The short term impact has been a decline in the value of sterling which has on balance proved beneficial for Ulster Carpets. In the longer term, we will have to continue to what we have become used to over the years, adapt and respond to whatever challenges the new trading environment provides."

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