First Derivatives 'owes it to Brian' to maintain roots in Newry

Brian Conlon will go down alongside the likes of Sir Allen McClay and Fred Wilson as one of Northern Ireland's great entrepreneurs
Gary McDonald Business Editor

FINTECH company First Derivatives says it "owes it to Brian" to maintain its roots in Newry, despite its operations now spanning 15 offices across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

Chief operating officer Adrian Toner was speaking as the big data firm revealed that it grew half-year sales by 11 per cent to £116.7 million and its pre-tax profits by 12 per cent to £8.4 million.

It was reporting financial data for the first time since the untimely death in July of its founder and driving force Brian Conlon, who had overseen two decades of unbroken growth at FD, which provides trading and risk management software systems and consulting services to the capital markets industry worldwide.

As the search for his permanent successor continues, there had been some speculation that First Derivatives - which has 2,400 employees - might significantly reduce its Newry footprint.

"Absolutely not. Quite the contrary. Newry is and will remain our strategic hub, a 24/7-365 operation in this city, and our business will continue to grow from here," said Mr Toner, who is understood not to have sought the chief executive's role.

"Indeed over the six-month period since March 1, we've added 274 graduates in Newry, including 68 permanent and 31 placement staff from Ulster University and Queen's."

Mr Toner described the financial performance over what was a traumatic period for the company as "particularly solid".

He added: "Nobody would have been prouder than Brian at the momentum in the company."

Software revenue accounted for the majority of total revenues in the March-August, rising 13 per cent to £71.4 million helped by growth in recurring license revenue. Managed services and consulting revenue rose 7 per cent to £45.2 million.

First Derivatives' primary platform - Kx Technology - recorded and 18 per cent growth, and during the period it signed a deal with a high profile Formula One team, adding to its work with Aston Martin Red Bull racing.

Software revenue from industry increased by 45 per cent from the same period a year earlier to £4.4m, but the company’s net debt rose to £60.2m from £24.2m at the same point last year.

FD chairman Seamus Keating, who has been action up as CEO since Mr Conlon's passing, said: “We continue to progress our search for a new chief executive, which is a priority for the group, and we will provide an update when that process is complete.”

He added: “We successfully executed on our strategy during the period, signing a number of key contracts across our business, and making strong progress towards securing landmark contracts in the markets we are targeting across Industry.

“We are encouraged by the growing momentum through the period that provides confidence in achieving another year of strong growth, in line with consensus forecasts.”

Forecasts for the full year to February 2020 point to revenues of £242.9m and profits of £43.8m.

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