Whiterock Finance provides record £17m of support to SMEs in last year

Announcing the lending figures are (from left) William McCulla, director of corporate finance at Invest NI; Paul Millar, chief executive of Whiterock Finance; Rhona Barbour, investment director at Whiterock; and Sarah Newbould, senior investment manager of the regional funding team at the British Business Bank. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

WHITEROCK Finance has reported a record £17 million in investment to 23 SMEs from across Northern Ireland during 2021.

The loans were provided through two of its managed funds, the Growth Loan Fund II and Growth Finance Fund, both of which are part of Invest NI's Access to Finance portfolio.

Companies of all sizes and stages of development have availed of the finance, from a range of sectors, including advanced manufacturing, fintech, life and health sciences, digital, ICT and creative industries.

Finance for the £30m Growth Finance Fund, which provides loans up to £2m, is provided by the British Business Bank, Invest NI and private investors the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers' Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).

The Growth Finance Fund has also hit the milestone of providing a total of £20m in funding to companies across the region since it was established in 2018.

Finance for the £30m Growth Loan Fund II, which provides loans of up to £500,000 to established Northern Ireland SMEs seeking to access growth finance, is provided by Invest NI and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.

Metcollect, a Lisburn-based company specialising in the recycling and processing of scrap cable, metals and garage waste, was one of the most recent companies to benefit from the funds.

After receiving £300,000 from Growth Loan Fund II in 2019 to expand operations into the Republic, it was approved for a £500,000 from the Growth Finance Fund in 2021.

It plans to use the funds to further invest in its current premises and to expand into new markets of hazardous waste and garage services.

Paul Millar, chief executive of Whiterock Finance, said: “After the difficulties of 2020, we started to see parts of the economy bounce back in 2021 and the demand for funding during the year was proof that Northern Ireland continues to be full of ambitious, motivated companies who are committed to growth.

“We are proud to have provided £17m to 23 companies across the region to help them achieve their growth ambitions and realise their potential.

“The Growth Finance Fund has also reached the landmark of £20m of loans issued to companies, two thirds of the total fund available. With loans provided of up to £2m, the increased uptake in applications and finance provided is a sign that confidence is returning, and organisations are ready to invest in growth.”

William McCulla, director of corporate finance at Invest NI, said: “It's encouraging to see that £17m of loan funding has been provided to SMEs through Growth Loan Fund II and Growth Finance Fund in 2021.

“Support to these businesses, such as Metcollect, is expected to help drive growth in the Northern Ireland economy as part of the recovery following the impact of Covid-19.”

Sarah Newbould, senior investment manager in regional funding team at British Business Bank, added: “As we emerge from the pandemic, it's encouraging to see that Whiterock Finance provided £17m of finance to support businesses in Northern Ireland last year.

“One of our objectives is to reduce regional imbalances in access to finance across the UK, and by supporting funds like Whiterock's Growth Finance Fund, we can continue to help businesses to access the finance they need to grow and prosper.”

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