Business

Family-owned Conexpo cements position in Northern Ireland's quarrying sector

One of Conexpo's quarries at Ballygowan
One of Conexpo's quarries at Ballygowan One of Conexpo's quarries at Ballygowan

BELFAST aggregates firm Conexpo, which uses stone quarried in Co Down to surface many of mainland Europe's busiest roads, saw its sales rise last year for the third year running, its latest accounts show.

The family-owned business, established in 1991 and which employs 38 people directly and supports a further 50 posts mainly in the haulage sector, increased its turnover in 2018 to £23.5 million from £21.9m previously.

However, its gross profit slipped back slightly from £4.2m to £3.8m, though that still represent a margin of just over 16 per cent.

Conexpo's core business is supplying high polished stone value (PSV) aggregates produced from company owned and operated quarries across the north.

It also operates a seven-hectare terminal in the port of Belfast for loading and discharging vessels with aggregates.

In the last two years the company has commissioned a unique crushing and screening plant at the Port of Belfast which has increased production of a vast range of aggregate sizes which can be certified to the customer's requirements.

Conexpo, which is owned by the McCluskey family, also has a hub at Avonmouth Docks in Bristol.

The four active directors of the firm are husband and wife Robert (73) and Beryl McCluskey and their two sons Jonathan (49) and Stephen (45), who are managing director and secretary respectively.

According to its latest set of accounts, the company's retained profit fell back last year to £2,142,216 from £2,529,478.

A geographical breakdown of Conexpo's market shows the vast majority of its business remains in the UK.

However, it quadrupled its European turnover from just over £81,000 to more than £316,000, which comes on the back of it winning an export order to supply 55,000 tonnes of aggregates to help reconstruct 26km of the road network near Limburg in southern Holland.

The contract follows a 200,000 tonne order for the newly constructed A15 extension which serves the Port of Rotterdam and is Europe’s busiest motorway.

As well as operating two quarries in Co Down, from which it sources a million tonnes of high quality gritstone a year, the company also procures 100,000s of tonnes of stone from neighbouring quarries.

Co Down quarry gritstone is increasingly in high demand and has been used in road projects from Hong Kong to Rotterdam, not just for initial construction, but also long-term re-surfacing requirements.

Conexpo's £5m Belfast Harbour facility has the potential to produce 6,000 tonnes every day, crushing and screening precision-sized stone for the complex honeycomb structures used in modern road surfaces.