More than 100 firms in North benefit from £40m fund

Invest NI was established to ensure companies were not deterred from expanding

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness join Tullett Prebon group CIO Luke Barnett at Invest NI headquarters in Belfast

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness join Tullett Prebon group CIO Luke Barnett at Invest NI headquarters in Belfast

 

An award winning Ballyclare sunless tanning company which counts Sofia Vergara and Kim Kardashian among its celebrity fans is among more than 100 businesses in the North that have benefitted from a total of £40 million lent by a specialist loan fund, latest figures show.

The £50 million Growth Loan Fund, which is backed by Invest NI, shows that since it was set up in 2012 it has provided loans of between £50,000 and £500,000 to a total of 120 businesses.

The fund, which is run on a commercial basis by WhiteRock Capital Partners, provides loans, primarily unsecured solely to small and medium sized, manufacturing, engineering or tradeable services firms.

According to Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI, the fund was established to ensure that companies with high growth potential are not deterred from expanding because of a lack of finance.

Mr Hamilton said there is a real need for the fund which has benefited companies from Ardboe Coldstore to ConveyorTek and recently Newry based Healthy Buildings.

“The fund is making a substantial difference here by boosting business confidence and helping Northern Ireland businesses to go from strength to strength,” he added.

WhiteRock Capital Partners said research shows that access to finance has long been a major issue for SMEs in the North and the fund which is also supported by private investors; Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC), initially filled a gap in the market.

But Paul Millar, chief executive of WhiteRock Capital Partners, said its role has also been expanded.

“As the economy has changed we are now regularly finding ourselves providing finance alongside local banks as we seek to help ambitious companies to grow.

“In the last 12 months we invested £13 million into 36 local SME businesses and applications for funding show no sign of slowing down for the rest of 2017,” Mr Millar said.