Monday 18 June 2018

Tool giant Hilti powers ahead in Irish market as growth exceeds 20pc a year

Hilti, founded in Liechtenstein 76 years ago, has global turnover of more than 5bn Swiss francs (€4.3bn) but does not reveal Irish turnover
Hilti, founded in Liechtenstein 76 years ago, has global turnover of more than 5bn Swiss francs (€4.3bn) but does not reveal Irish turnover

Fearghal O'Connor

Sales at the Irish arm of construction products seller Hilti grew by more than 20pc in 2017, with similar growth expected this year.

Hilti sells power tools aimed at professional builders, as well as firestop, mounting and anchoring systems, supplying contractors on many of the major industrial and commercial building sites around the country.

It aims to outgrow overall Irish construction output by 1.5 times, Hilti Ireland general manager Marci Bonham told this newspaper in an interview.

"If the market grows 14pc we want to grow 21pc. Construction output is expected to grow between now and 2020 by 28pc. Things are going really very well," said Bonham.

Hilti, founded in Liechtenstein 76 years ago, has global turnover of more than 5bn Swiss francs (€4.3bn) but does not reveal Irish turnover.

Bonham said the strong growth experienced by Hilti Ireland meant that it had been able to invest in staff and additional resources. Staff numbers were growing by up to 15pc per annum, she said.

It now employs 80 people in five stores, north and south, and is planning to refurbish its Dublin headquarters to allow for further growth. During the recession the company cut its Irish workforce from 110 down to just 46. "It's ebb and flow. We follow market conditions and measure our success in any country against construction output - roads, bridges, airports, schools, hospitals. We are seeing a lot of commercial and industrial builds in Ireland right now - data centres, pharma, dairy, manufacturing," Bonham said.

She described Hilti's Irish industry customers as "cautiously optimistic" but warned that cash flow issues remain a threat to some in the Irish sector, particularly after the collapse of British construction giant Carillion.

"I know several Irish contractors who are owed significant amounts of money for work done and completed in the UK on some of these projects that have just stopped," said Bonham.

Sub-contractors are in danger of being overstretched if the overall cash flow situation in the sector was not handled properly.

"It is something I believe Ireland and the UK really needs to look at in the coming years," she said. "Cash is such a problem in the industry. And if one of these big contractors folds - Carillion being the current example - there are ripple effects: employees, sub-contractors, the sub-contractors employees, the caterers, the cleaning companies."

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