AN organisation that offers business advice and support to North East companies is expanding its reach by buying a national business development firm.
Seaham-based Business & Enterprise UK is to change its name to the Business & Enterprise Group after picking up Business-to-Business – a UK company with offices in London, Newcastle and Coventry which specialises in areas such as event management, international trade and supply chain management.
The move comes as part of an ongoing drive to extend its support work across the UK. It has recently secured contracts in London and the North West, and picked up the commercial arm of Newcastle’s Northern Defence Industries last year. It also runs the North East Regional International Trade Office.
The company formerly known as Business & Enterprise UK announced 135 redundancies from its 416-person workforce late last year following the Government’s decision to axe regional Business Link services.
However, chief executive Alastair MacColl said the B&E Group retained a number of other contracts with groups such as the Environment Agency and Department of Work and Pensions, and would be looking to get involved with any Business Link replacements announced by the Government before or after Business Link’s closure on November 25.
He said: “The closure didn’t affect our approach as we were already looking to expand and develop our business support services. We’ve always tried to develop a significant portfolio that offered a range of services to SMEs and, for years, we’ve done much more than Business Link. However, the Business Link service is definitely still available to interested businesses until November 25, and we’ll be working hard on it until that day.”
Business-to-Business employs 36 people and will continue to run as a subsidiary of the Business & Enterprise Group. It has a client list in the private, public and third sectors, including nPower, Gatwick and Heathrow airports, the Ministry of Defence and Sainsbury.
Mr MacColl believes the acquisition would allow it to access “valuable new markets and customers”, as well as “export our knowledge and skills to other parts of the country”.
He said: “We’ve been working with B2B for a while now, and began discussions about an acquisition in mid-November.
“They’re a business we’ve got to know and understand, and the acquisition was driven by the complementary nature of our skills and resources.
“It means we now have good contracts and customers across the country. We now have offices and a physical presence, as well as members of staff, around the UK.
“However, what we’d really like to emphasise is that we’re merely following in the footsteps of so many other good North East businesses by exporting our skills to other parts of the country. We still have an overwhelming focus on helping to create jobs, create prosperity and help SMEs grow in the North East.”
B&E Group revenues were £41m for the last financial year, with nearly £20m coming from One North East to handle the Business Link Service and business investment through the North East Investment Centre.
It has helped over 30,000 North East firms in the last year, and incorporates Compete North East and the North East Employer Coalition. It was recently named in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For list.