Business Irish

Saturday 20 January 2018

McVicar sets his sights on €1bn revenues at Combilift

Combilift co-founder Martin McVicar
Combilift co-founder Martin McVicar
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Martin McVicar's Combilift is eyeing a €1bn revenue target, having doubled sales compared to pre-recession numbers.

The forklift manufacturer's sales hit around €180m in 2015. The plan is to double that in five years and then double it again, with €1bn revenue "well within reach", McVicar said in an interview with the Sunday Independent.

Combilift's growth will be entirely self-financed, with no borrowings, he said.

Started in Monaghan 18 years ago by McVicar (44) and co-founder Robert Moffatt, the company designs and sells specialised forklifts aimed at saving warehouse space for buyers. Almost all of its sales are made outside of Ireland.

The firm will continue to grow from Monaghan, McVicar said, once labour costs stay stable.

"As long as labour costs stay under 10pc of turnover, we are convinced we can stay in Ireland. It is not a cheap place to manufacture but it can be done. Stable employment taxes are important."

The company is investing €40m in a new green-field production plant, which should allow it to double its output. The 46,0000 sq ft purpose-built building will be located in Gallinagh.

McVicar said its owners had no interest in going public or selling, adding: "We'd like to keep the business in our families."

The US, UK and Scandinavia are its fastest-growing markets. McVicar urged Irish exporters to be cautious in their approach to emerging markets. Developing markets, while hailed by economists as the biggest drivers of global growth, are increasingly difficult to export into, he said.

"The BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - are not easy for new exporters. A lot of these countries are focused on rapidly growing their own economies so you are facing serious import duties, we see that in countries like Russia and Brazil," McVicar said.

"There is a lot of talk about the BRICS but I would urge caution. In 2014, Russia was our sixth-largest export market; by 2015, that had fallen dramatically to 35th because of issues like the devaluation of the ruble and instability in Ukraine.

"It is starting to improve. But my point is that the BRICS aren't all that easy for new exporters.

"I would encourage people to focus on markets like the US where the economy is growing quickly and a lot of construction is taking place. The US offers lower-hanging fruit.

"Following existing customers as they move into new markets is probably the most cost-effective way to expand your exporting footprint."

Sunday Indo Business

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