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Billionaire Kochs take over Irish med-tech group


Charles Koch

Charles Koch

Charles Koch

Koch Industries, the vast US industrial empire run by controversial billionaires David and Charles Koch, has bought Sligo medical device manufacturer Protek Medical. The Irish medical devices sector is one of the most innovative in the world and is attracting significant investment.

The brothers, who are major donors to conservative US political causes, bought Protek via a Koch subsidiary, Molex.

Protek employs 180 people at manufacturing facilities in Sligo and Galway.

It provides outsourcing services, producing custom-built equipment for the rapidly-growing medical device industry. Ireland has enjoyed huge success in this sector; the country is one of the largest exported of medical device products in Europe and 18 of the world's top 25 medical technology companies have a base in Ireland.

Protek brings in revenues of slightly more than €10m a year from clients in Europe and North America. It bought Galway medical device design firm AP Design in 2013.

The company was founded in 1995 by local businessmen Donagh Connolly and managing director Frank Boyle. Until recently Boyle owned about half of the company's shares. He is staying on as managing director following the change of ownership.

New owner Koch Industries is the second richest private company in the US, with revenue of $115bn a year and 70,000 employees. Its interests span everything from oil to paper towels and Lycra.

Chief executive Charles (79) and executive vice president David (75) are each valued at $42.8bn by Forbes, pinning them at joint fourth place on the US rich list.

Their father Fred Birch, who became virulently anti-communist following a visit to the Soviet Union, founded Koch Industries in the 1940s after inventing a new refining process for crude oil.

Charles and David gained control in 1983 when they bought out their other brothers, Frederick and William Koch, for $1.1bn.

Koch Industries also owns cable and electronic parts manufacturer Molex, which has a plant in Shannon.

The Koch brothers are some of the world's most active and powerful political donors, and have been described as the third force in American politics.

They favour conservative right-wing candidates and policies.

David Koch recently revealed plans to spend around $900m on influencing the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election via their political network Freedom Partners and other organisations.

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This is more than twice the Kochs spent on the 2012 US elections, when they gave hundreds of millions to right-wing causes like a campaign to repeal a Californian global warming law.

David Koch has been linked with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that played a key role in helping to organize the tea-party movement into a potent political force.

"The acquisition presents new opportunities to achieve faster growth by expanding into new regions and healthcare market segments" said Boyle.

"Our customers will benefit from the unique capabilities, electromechanical technologies and global supply chain that Molex offers. We will now have the ability to easily scale to serve high mix, low and high volume production requirements to small businesses and large medical device customers worldwide."

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