West­port safety cloth­ing firm looks to Aus­tralia in €10m ex­pan­sion deal

The Irish Times - Business - - NEWS - SI­MON CAR­SWELL in Mel­bourne

The West­port-based safety cloth­ing and pro­tec­tive equip­ment maker Portwest has splashed out al­most €10 mil­lion buy­ing an­other Aus­tralia com­pany to ex­pand its pres­ence in that mar­ket.

The fam­ily-owned busi­ness signed a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment with the Mel­bourne-based com­pany, it ac­quired pre­vent­ing it from nam­ing the firm.

Aus­tralian com­pany

Just six months ago the Co Mayo firm ac­quired an­other Aus­tralian com­pany called Prime Mover Work­wear in a deal worth €7.5 mil­lion.

The sec­ond ac­qui­si­tion will more than dou­ble the Ir­ish com­pany’s turnover in Aus­tralia and New Zealand to be­tween €20 mil­lion and €25 mil­lion, which will rep­re­sent about a tenth of its over­all busi­ness. “This ac­qui­si­tion now fol­lows on from the orig­i­nal ac­qui­si­tion six months ago.

It cat­a­pults it to the next stage of growth,” Brett Birkill, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Ir­ish sub­sidiary who sold Prime Mover, told re­porters on the fringes of a busi­ness event in Mel­bourne at­tended by Pres­i­dent Michael D Hig­gins.

Aus­tralia’s buoy­ant con­struc­tion in­dus­try made Portwest’s ad­di­tional in­vest­ment sen­si­ble, while push­ing fur­ther into this mar­ket would “help spread the load” of mit­i­gat­ing risk from Brexit, said Mr Birkill. Portwest, which is owned by Harry Hughes and his fam­ily, has been grow­ing at a rate of 30 per cent a year. It has 2,100 em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing 150 in West­port and 70 in Aus­tralia.

Staff num­bers

The com­pany has also an­nounced the build­ing of a new cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in Mayo at a cost of more than €10 mil­lion and plans to grow staff num­ber over the com­ing years.

Julie Sin­na­mon, chief ex­ec­u­tive of En­ter­prise Ire­land who hosted the Mel­bourne event, said: “Mar­kets like this [Aus­tralia] are re­ally im­por­tant for them in terms of jobs back home.”

Portwest is be­ing run by the third gen­er­a­tion of the Hughes fam­ily. They also own the four-star Ho­tel West­port

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