Posted on Monday 10 February 2014 by Ulster Business

 CIGA Healthcare 1

Irwin Armstrong, CEO of CIGA Healthcare with Neil McCabe, Senior Investment Manager of Growth Loan Fund managers WhiteRock Capital Partners.

A Ballymena company is to create up to 10 jobs in the next two years and is expanding its operation in the North American market after getting backing of £500,000 from the Growth Loan Fund.

The loan will also support CIGA Healthcare Ltd's move to larger purpose built premises in the town, which it said will help it meet a growing demand for its rapid self-test health diagnostic products from worldwide markets.

Formed in 2005 by Irwin Armstrong, CIGA Healthcare Ltd currently employs over 20 staff in Northern Ireland and a further 55 sales staff worldwide on a brokerage basis, and is leading developments in the over-the-counter [OTC], professional and veterinary markets.

The firm's OTC products - which include pregnancy, ovulation and menopause tests, as well as cholesterol and blood pressure monitors, thermometers and drug tests– are on sale in a number of large UK multiples including Asda, , Boots and Morrisons. The firm also supplies its professional products to the NHS in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland.

CIGA Healthcare currently exports to over 70 countries worldwide, including Australia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates and Russia and is now focused on increasing its presence in the North American market.

Founder and CEO Mr Armstrong explained: "We have worked hard to establish a presence in over 70 foreign markets over the past nine years and saw North America as being our next key market. When we looked at what we needed to take advantage of opportunities in that market, however, our greatest challenge was working capital as most of our customers are very large scale.

"The investment we have secured from the Growth Loan Fund through WhiteRock Capital Partners will help meet some of those working capital requirements, enabling us to develop our business further in North America, which we believe will soon be our largest market.

"Having recently won a contract for $8m there over the next three years, our move to much larger premises in Ballymena will help increase our capacity to service such a large contract and continue our focus on R&D."

Finance for the Growth Loan Fund – which provides loans to established Northern Ireland SMEs seeking to access growth finance – has been provided by Invest Northern Ireland and private investor, Northern Ireland Local Government Officers' Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC).

Neil McCabe, senior investment manager at WhiteRock Capital Partners said: "CIGA Healthcare is a well-established exporter and, with a focused growth strategy in place to continue expanding into new markets and a strong commitment to R&D and innovation, is exactly the type company that we are seeking to invest in.

"We have entered into 2014 in a strong position, with all the economic indicators suggesting that we are in a moderate recovery and business confidence having seen a significant improvement. CIGA Healthcare is a fine example of a company which over the past nine years has already channelled this business confidence into action and will continue to do so in 2014, taking advantage of the benefits that come from trading in North America and other foreign markets."

WhiteRock Capital Partners LLP was established in 2012 to manage the Fund by the consortium of three partners – Strathtay Ventures Ltd, NEL Fund Managers and Clarendon Fund Managers, all of which are authorised and regulated by the FCA.

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