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Indian technology company HCL has outsourced 600 contact centre jobs to Belfast with the support of a £4.68m grant from Invest Northern Ireland, the region's economic development organisation.

The deal was announced early this morning by the prime minister, who is currently visiting India. He said that the UK could be an important base for Asian companies wanting to expand their business into the EU.

HCL said that it was the skills base in Northern Ireland that helped secure the investment, in the face of competition from lower waged economies.

Shiv Nadar, chairman and CEO HCL Technologies, said that his company had initially invested in Northern Ireland through a partnership with BT. He described that move as "an act of faith".

HCL is one of the top ten private employers in Northern Ireland, with a staff of nearly 2,000 people. The majority (1,720) are based in Belfast with 220 more in Armagh. ®

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