Business review of 2021: November

Almac announced plans to create 1,000 new jobs in the north.

PROBLEMS in processing the £100 Spend Local cards saw the Economy Minister Gordon Lyons announce an extension of the November 30 deadline to December 14. The deadline was further extended and the scheme reopened over Christmas for several thousand people who either received their card late or who experienced technical problems. Data published by the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) suggested the cards made an immediate and tangible difference on footfall levels.

BELFAST e-commerce start-up Selazar announced the biggest-ever tech investment for a Northern Ireland company in November. The firm, which automatically picks, packs, stores and ships online products received a £20 million cash injection from a large global investment group to help fast-track its global expansion.

INFLATION emerged as an escalating issue for businesses in the winter. Successive surveys from Ulster Bank showed record acceleration in the rates both input and output costs.

THE energy crisis continued with the north’s biggest electricity provider Power NI announcing a 21.4 per cent hike from January 1, adding £131 a year onto the bill of the average customer. The Irish News revealed plans at Stormont to introduce an emergency energy payment support scheme.

ALMAC made one of the biggest job announcements in a generation. The Craigavon pharma giant said it would create 1,000 new jobs in the north over the next three years. It was part of move to expand the group’s overall workforce by 1,800 in the next 36 months. The Irish News also revealed in November that Almac will move into the new Ebrington Plaza development in Derry city.

DRINKS can manufacturer Ardagh Metal Packaging (AMP) announced plans to develop a £150 million ($200m) facility in Newtownabbey. The packaging giant said the new plant at Global Point Business Park, expected to be operational by 2023, will serve the growing needs of its customers in Ireland, the UK and Europe.

THE region's fastest-growing retailer Lidl had a record-breaking "Covid-year" sales in Northern Ireland as it posted a five-fold surge in bottom-line profits. Its financial returns for the period from March 2020 to February this year showed turnover soaring by almost a quarter from £278.2m to £345.4m.

OFFICIAL data November revealed house prices in the north underwent the biggest annual increase since the height of the 2007 housing boom. The Northern Ireland House Price Index put the average residential property at £159,109 for the third quarter of 2021, 10.7 per cent higher than where it stood 12 months earlier.

IN an interview with The Irish News, economist David McWilliams said a combination of demographic change, poor economic performance and Brexit means the direction of travel to a unified Ireland is now “only one way”. He also described the Northern Ireland Protocol as “an open goal”, suggesting that the north could eventually outperform the Republic in attracting foreign capital and talent.

THE chief executive of Invest NI, Kevin Holland, announced he would stand down after just two years in the role. A former British trade diplomat to China, the Bristol native joined the economic support agency in October 2019, replacing long-time Invest NI boss Alastair Hamilton the following month.

COVID-19 vaccine passports were introduced in Northern Ireland on November 29. After a two-week grace period, licensed premises were legally required to ask customers to show either a passport or proof of a negative Covid test result

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