Sales at Shannon medical technology firm exceed €1bn

SALES at a Shannon-based medical technology firm which is favoured by one of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffett, exceeded €1 billion last year.

According to accounts just filed by the US-owned Benex Ltd to the Companies Office, revenues at the company – which employs only 15 at its Shannon base – increased by 4% or €38 million to €1.018bn to the end of September last year.

However, pre-tax profits at the company slumped by 14% from €91.4m to €78.5m.

Earlier this year, the world’s third-richest man, Warren Buffett increased his shareholding in Becton Dickinson & Co through his vehicle, Berkshire Hathaway, to 1.744 million shares.

Becton Dickinson was one of only three firms where Mr Buffett increased his position in the first quarter of this year, increasing his stake by 16%.

The turnover recorded by the Irish subsidiary of the US medical group represents 18.5% of the corporation’s global revenues of $7.1bn (€5.49bn) last year. The corporation employs 29,000 staff.

According to the accounts, the company based at the Shannon Free Zone is Becton Dickinson’s “regional distribution and logistics platform for Europe”.

The company’s turnover confirms the firm as one of the top-performing companies in Ireland in terms of the size of its business.

The accounts show that the Shannon unit last year paid €120m in dividends to its parent and that followed a pay-out of €90m in 2008.

Company filings since 2003 show in the period 2003 to 2009, the company has paid €513m in dividends to its US parent.

During the same period, the company has paid €69.8m in corporation tax to the Irish exchequer, paying €9.8m last year. At the end of September last, the company had €32.7m in accumulated profits.

According to the directors’ report: “There were challenging marketplace and general economic conditions across the geographic locations and business segments served by the company in the year, which had the effect of restricting sales growth.

“However, notwithstanding this difficult environment, sales did grow by 4% aided by additional sales of flu-related products.”

The directors state that foreign exchange rate exposures had a significant effect on reported results, while continuing cost pressures during the year contributed to a 6% increase in cost of sales, which in combination with lower sales growth resulted in a 10% drop in gross profit last year. The accounts show that Benex Ltd’s 15 employees are engaged in administration and finance, with staff costs last year coming to €946,000. No medical devices are produced at Shannon.

The filings show that 91% or €930m of the company’s sales were in the EU. Last year, the company’s cost of sales rose by 6% from €834.5m to €886.8m.

The accounts show the company’s operating profit dropped by 16% from €95m to €80m.

A breakdown of the company’s turnover showed that it recorded €466m in sales of medical products; €329.4m in sales from diagnostic products and €222.2m from bioscience products.

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