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Foster announces first Co-Fund NI investment deals

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster today announced the first Co-Fund NI investment deals worth over £1.5million.

The recently launched Co-Fund NI equity fund, created by Invest Northern Ireland, will co-invest with business angel or private investor-led deals. It is managed by Clarendon Fund Managers Ltd and part financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

Invest NI has provided £7.2million through the Fund, which Clarendon aims to use to secure total investment of £16million including private sector leverage over the next six years.

The Minister made the announcement at the 'Business of Finance' conference in Belfast, where she addressed around 100 delegates including local and external venture capital investors, private equity fund managers and a range of local businesses that are considering or actively seeking investment.

Arlene Foster said: "Having officially launched Co-Fund NI earlier this month I am pleased to announce that we have completed the first two investment deals with local businesses. The deals with Lisburn-based medical imaging company Cirdan Imaging Ltd, and MSO Cleland, a print and packaging company in Belfast, represent significant investment in the local economy and will help to boost levels of innovation and stimulate growth in international markets.

"My Department's objective through this Fund is to secure private sector investment in small and medium sized businesses where funding gaps exist. Today's announcement demonstrates that this type of investment is not just for earlier stage technology companies, but can benefit established businesses as well. I would encourage other business owners to consider equity funding to finance their growth plans alongside other sources of finance."

Co-Fund NI's £163,875 investment in Cirdan Imaging Ltd was part of an equity investment round of more than £540,000 which included private equity investors. The deal was led by Queen's University's venture spin-out company, QUBIS.

The Fund's £250,000 investment in MSO Cleland was also part of an equity investment round of £1million. This investment was alongside business angels who bring significant value add to the Company alongside their investment, and the equity round was crucial in bringing together other sources of finance for MSO.

Neil Simms, Finance Director of Clarendon, said: "We are delighted with the exceptionally high calibre of the first two deals completed by Co-Fund NI. These companies are at different stages of the business development cycle, with MSO Cleland operating for over 130 years and Cirdan Imaging being just in its second year of trading. Nevertheless we were struck by the similarities, in terms of the experience and entrepreneurial spirit of both management teams, and the continuous process of innovation evident in both companies' products and services."

Dr Hugh Cormican, CEO of Cirdan, said: "This investment represents a key milestone in our company's growth plans. Cirdan are developing innovative products to assist Radiologists and Pathologists with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. We have projected that Cirdan will grow sales to around £10million within five years. We already have a strong team in place but with this investment we can add to that team and achieve our sales targets in international markets."

Dominic Walsh, CEO with MSO Cleland, commented: "Our company has been involved in the packaging industry since 1876. We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of innovative, pioneering packaging and printing solutions for the pharmaceutical, food, health and beauty, and drink and beverage sectors. This investment will be a key part of securing the future viability of our business. It will help to ensure stability and future growth in employment opportunities for our company which already employs over 200 people."