Microsoft tops export table
Foreign IT firms dominate trade
MICROSOFT was the biggest exporter from Ireland last year, as the information technology sector continues to dominate trade in Ireland.
According to the Irish Exporters Association's (IEA) annual Top 250 survey, Microsoft was comfortably the busiest firm in Ireland during 2012, sending goods and services worth €13.7bn overseas during the year.
That was €1bn more than Google, who exported €12.5bn worth over the same period.
IT companies dominate the list, making up five of the top 10, and nine of the top 20 firms overall.
Microsoft's trade levels increased 37pc in the past year, driven in part by the rollout of the company's Windows 8 operating system and its increase in software and consulting services.
Dell, which still has a PC manufacturing business but is morphing into more of a consulting business, was fourth.
The computing giant, which is at the centre of a takeover battle, exported some €9.9bn worth of goods and services.
Outside of IT, pharmaceuticals and life sciences are by far the second biggest sector doing business overseas in Ireland.
The US firm Johnson & Johnson is the third biggest trader in Ireland, with exports worth €10.5bn leaving the country every year. Seven of the top 20 fall into that category.
The list is dominated by foreign multinationals, with few indigenous firms featuring high up. There are some exceptions, however.
Packaging firm Smurfit Kappa Group, which is based here but has operations around the world, is the biggest native-Irish exporter. It sells goods and services worth €7.4bn a year – good enough for fifth overall. Kerry Group is eighth with exports worth €5.7bn a year, but that is more than double Glanbia, which is the third biggest exporting Irish firm in 17th place.
IEA chief executive John Whelan pointed to the continued growth in the IT sector in Ireland, and warned that Ireland was failing to fill all the vacancies being created by the sector.
"Total IT exports grew 12pc in the past year, maintaining Ireland's place as the second-largest exporter of computer and IT services in the world," he said.
"The continuing rapid growth in the 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 bottleneck to restrict export and FDI growth in the sector over the coming years," he added.
Exports from the pharmaceuticals sectors jumped 42pc between 2006 and 2011, but slipped back 2.5pc last year, partially due to the patent cliff.
The IEA, however, warned we had yet to experience the full effect of the patent cliff, and the drop was likely to continue into 2013 and beyond.
Investec's Aisling Dodgson, who helped compile the report, said recent growth in the amount of exports from indigenous companies had been boosted by the weak euro vis-a-vis sterling and the US dollar.