Co Down manufacturing duo appear in UK league of fast-growth profit firms

Castlewellan-based structural, agricultural and reinforcement steel manufacturer Walter Watson is featured at number six in the Sunday Times list of UK top profit-makers

TWO manufacturing firms from Co Down with a combined workforce of more than 450 people and £13 million in profits will feature this weekend in the 19th annual Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 league table,which ranks private UK companies with the fastest-growing profits over three years.

Walter Watson in Castlewellan is a first-time entrant in the list, coming in at number six, while MJM Group in Newry moves up to 62nd place from 89th in 2017, when Northern Ireland had four firms featured.

Established in 1967, the family-owned Walter Watson steel fabricating business designs, manufactures and distributes structural and reinforcing steelwork for the construction industry (it provided the steel for Belfast's Waterfront Hall new conference centre).

It also makes overhead cranes and agricultural equipment, such as rollers, aerators and animal feeders. Profits grew by an average of 125 per cent a year to £6.2m in 2016.

Meanwhile specialist joinery and fit-out firm MJM Group, started in 1983 by Brian McConville, grew profits by an average of 65 per cent a year to £7.1m over the period.

The company has completed fit-outs across five continents for cruise clients such as Royal Caribbean, P&O and Carnival, while its other customers include ferry firms, super-yacht owners and land-based clients like luxury hotels.

The two Northern Ireland companies appear with businesses from around the UK, including domestic appliance designer Gtech, sandwich shop chain Pret A Manger, and gym operator PureGym.

Despite cost pressures caused in part by the fall in value of sterling, all 100 companies increased sales and average profit margins rose from 8 per cent to 15 per cent.

Brian Murphy, BDO's managing partner in Northern Ireland, said: “These high-growth, high-energy and highly-entrepreneurial companies will be the difference between success and failure in our post-Brexit economic future.

"These businesses are playing their part by recording strong levels of revenue and profit growth and by creating jobs. We'd like to see the Government do more to help them by focusing on skills, infrastructure investment and tax simplification.”

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