Posted on Friday 21 December 2018 by John Mulgrew


A&L Goodbody's Michael Neill, Moy Park boss Chris Kirke and Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew as the poultry firm came top of the Top 100 Companies list

Last year was another busy one, with Brexit, ongoing political uncertainty and job losses. But there was also some good news. We take a snapshot of the year that was 2018


Bombardier landed a massive victory against Boeing in the US. Thousands of workers here breathed a sigh of relief when the US International Trade Commission ruled in its favour amid a challenge by Boeing.



Job losses hit the headlines. That includes Williams Industrial Services (WIS), which employed 145 people in Mallusk, and was been put into administration. Elsewhere, it was revealed French oil services firm Schlumberger would be going ahead with the closure of its site, which employs 205 people in Newtownabbey.



In what could become one of the single largest residential announcements since the housing crash, it was announced that Fraser Homes Limited has entered into an agreement with Gardrum Holdings Ltd, part of the EuroAuctions group, to deliver 1000 homes over the next 10 years.



Ulster Business revealed fresh plans are now under way to develop the Sprucefield site. The site has long been linked to John Lewis, but has undergone years of hold-ups and legal challenges.



Unemployment in Northern Ireland hits a record low of 3.1%, with a 2.1% fall over the last year. The unemployment rate for January to March was the lowest since records began in 1995. However, the rate of economic inactivity remained the highest of all UK regions.



While still a relatively new player in Northern Ireland, Belfast financial services firm FinTrU revealed it would create 600 jobs and open a new hub in Londonderry, in one of the largest single jobs announcements in the last few years.



Staffline Group, led by Tina McKenzie, acquired Grafton, one of the best-known names in recruitment in Ireland. She said the deal for an undisclosed sum made it the second-biggest recruitment firm on the island with 10,000 workers on its books.



The Ulster Business Top 100 Companies 2018 edition, with A&L Goodbody, revealed that Northern Ireland’s biggest companies have boosted their profits by almost 80% in the space of a year. Moy Park has also retained the top spot on the Ulster Business Top 100 Companies 2018 edition for the seventh year running, with turnover of £1.4bn. However, Belfast retailing took a massive hit, after a fire gutted Primark’s Bank Buildings, leading to a more than 30% drop in footfall.



There were two very large job announcements made during the month. That included consultancy firm, PA Consulting, which revealed it would create up to 400 jobs. Meanwhile, Newry-based tech firm First Derivatives revealed it is planning to hire 1,000 additional staff.



Lisburn-based engineering business Camlin reveals it’s creating 298 jobs. The new £28m expansion includes a £5m contribution from Invest NI.



Brexit was in the headlines throughout the course of the year, but it was in November when a withdrawal deal was put on the table that the vast majority of Northern Ireland business groups rallied together to back the transition agreement.



There’s was a lot of scratching of heads as to what’s next on the Brexit agenda. A leadership challenge against the Prime Minister led to a House of Commons vote on the withdrawal deal being delayed until the New Year.


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