Building Your Business
Top Exporters in Ireland

17 July 2013

The Irish Exporters Association (IEA), in association with Investec, a leading specialist bank and wealth and investment manager, today launched its 2013 edition of Top 250 Exporters in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Software manufacturer and designer Microsoft was named the largest exporting company, moving up one place from its previous year’s ranking. It was followed closely by Google (2nd), Johnson & Johnson (3rd) and Dell (4th).


Left to Right: Frank Hayes, Kerry Group plc, Dr. Leisha Daly, Johnson & Johnson, Aisling Dodgson, Investec, Michael O'Donovan, Microsoft, John Whelan, CEO, Irish Exporters Association.


The long term stalwart of the ICT sector in Ireland - Microsoft- led the expansion in Irish exports over the past year with an increased export turnover to €13.7 billion, a rampant 37% increase on the prior year. Microsoft has been operating in Ireland since 1985 and has increased its international mandate here in cloud computing  and now employs over 1,200 people directly, with a further 700  full time contractor staff . 


Speaking at this morning’s event, John Whelan, Chief Executive, The Irish Exporters Association, said, “The dominance of the information communications technology (ICT) sector in the top echelons of Irish exports industry continued in the Top 250 survey for 2013. Total exports from the sector grew by 12% in the past year maintaining Ireland’s place as the second largest exporter of computer and IT services in the world. Of the Top 20 companies listed, 10 of them are focused within the ICT arena.”


Mr. Whelan continued, “The continuing rapid growth in the ICT sector, which now employs 75,000 people in 8,000 companies, will require an increase in the availability of software developers and engineers. Recruitment demand is currently for computing and electronic engineers and the expansion and replacement demand for these skills is estimated at 2,500 per year. Co-ordinated, sustained actions by the third-level institutions will be required to ensure a doubling of the output of graduates, which is the minimum to ensure that recruitment difficulties do not become the bottle neck to restrict export and FDI growth in the sector over the coming years."


Aisling Dodgson, Head of Treasury, and Investec, said: “This is Investec’s third year partnering with the Irish Exporters Association for this report. Investec has been in Ireland for 15 years and over the years has built strong client relationships across all sectors. The continued expansion of the indigenous Irish sector is very encouraging and has been helped through a weakening of the euro against both US dollar and Sterling in recent years and has also been supported by historically low interest rates.


Ms Dodgson concluded: “The export sector has a key role to play in helping the economy to grow and allow Ireland emerge as a global player into the future. At Investec, we are enhancing our offerings and services to help build a stronger, more confident sector. With this in mind, we recently established a debt capital markets team in Dublin, the lending capabilities of which will enhance our corporate finance advisory services. In addition, our competitive offering in the foreign exchange, commodity, interest rate and deposit taking markets are there to support the growth of the Irish corporate sector.”


Key Highlights from the Top 250 Exporters include:


Food and Drink Sector

In the 2013 Top 250 Exporters listing the Kerry Group is the largest in the food 7 drink sector, followed by Glanbia Plc in second position and Irish Diary Bord taking up the 3rd slot. 

Kerry, with exports of €5.7 billion and more than 24,000 employees, has also become much more focused on servicing the food industry rather than actually producing food. Through its ingredients and flavours division (79% of FY2012 profits), it is now a world leader in complex processes such as product reformulation, a technique that helps clients alter the recipe of their product while maintaining attributes like taste and texture.

Today, food and beverage (F&B) companies listed on the ISEQ generate combined revenues of over €17 billion and account for 25% of the total market value of the index. Over the past year, the star performer has been Glanbia, with exports of €2.4 billion and whose share price has effectively doubled in the past year.

Many of these listed Irish companies have adapted their business models in response to long-term trends running through the industry. Such trends include global population growth, the rise of new middle classes in emerging markets and an increasing focus on food safety. Rather than producing only food, many now seek to add value by developing specialist products or servicing the food industry itself. Last year Glanbia succeeded in repositioning its business. Most notably, it disposed of a 60% holding in Irish dairy processing in order to reallocate resources towards its rapidly growing nutritional business. Now, it’s global nutritional and US cheese business accounts for over 70% of the group’s operating profits.


Life Sciences

In the 2013Top 250 Exporters listing, Johnson &Johnson tops the life sciences sector. In second position is Stryker the medical devices manufacturer, and in third is Pfizer.

Johnson& Johnson have a wide range of manufacturing facilities in Ireland reflecting its status as

·         the world’s sixth-largest consumer health company

·         The world’s largest and most diverse medical devices and diagnostics company

·         The world’s fifth-largest biologics company

·         And the world’s eighth-largest pharmaceuticals company

The life sciences sector has developed into one of the core sectors of the Irish economy. In 2012, exports of the two main sub-sectors- pharmaceuticals and medical devices -totalled €56.5 billion, nearly two-thirds of total manufacturing exports. The sector accounts for 57% of gross value added of manufacturing industries in 2010 (CSO, Census of Industrial Production) and directly employed over 51,000 people in 2012.


Pharmaceutical exports have shown continuous growth over the past decade. In the face of the severe global economic crisis, pharmaceutical exports grew by 42% – from €36.6 billion in 2006 to €52.1 billion in 2011 – after which pharmaceutical exports ped to €50.8 billion one year later.

The in exports since 2011 partly reflects the impact of the patent cliff. The 2.5% may give the impression that the impact is more modest than initially anticipated. However, the patent cliff impacts different markets at different times and its full impact has yet to materialise. The loss in exports to the U.S. was initially offset by a continued growth in other markets. However, in Q3 2012, exports to the UK started their decent, followed by exports across the EU and the rest of the world in the final quarter of that year. The trends suggest that the patent cliff will continue to depress figures in 2013.


Northern Ireland

Export of manufactured goods is the largest sector and continues to be driven by industry leaders in the machinery and transport equipment category, which generated sales in excess of £2.3 billion. Key players in this sector include Bombardier, Belfast and Wrightbus in Ballymena (producing many types of buses including the new London Routemaster buses).


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