The world away from those cuts
CUTS and the question of what will replace regional development agency One North East may have been dominating many of the headlines for the past three months, but there’s been plenty else going on in the North East business world too. Here are just a few of the big stories we have been reporting on.
October 1: There is change at the top of one of the North East’s most successful businesses as Frenchman Guy Berruyer takes over from Paul Walker as chief executive of Sage. The company’s latest financial statement says it is performing well, despite the impact of the recession.
October 5: It is proving quite a year for Immunodiagnostic Systems (IDS), the AIM-listed plc which announced turnover is up by a third compared with 12 months ago. The Boldon-based firm, which makes kits to detect diseases such as cancer, expects full-year sales to reach nearly £50m.
October 6: Prominent North East lawyer Robin Bloom stands down early from his role as president of the CBI in the North East amid controversy over plans for new local economic partnerships in the region. He is replaced in the job by Greggs chief executive Ken McMeikan.
Tyneside oil and gas pipeline company Wellstream has turned down a £755m takeover bid from US industrial giant General Electric (GE). The American group came out of the shadows to confirm it was the mystery bidder that had been trying to buy the firm, which employs around 400 people at its Walker headquarter and factory as well as more than 550 in Brazil, where 70% of its income is generated.
October 20: The much-anticipated comprehensive spending review brings mixed news for businesses in the North East. One company badly affected by the announcement is Newcastle-based plc Eaga, which delivers programmes including the Government’s Warm Front scheme, which is to see its funding reduced.
October 21: Seaham-based Business and Enterprise North East, which delivers business services across the region such as Business Link, announces it is making 135 redundancies from its 416-strong workforce.
The move is part of a restructuring of the company which plans to expand into other regions after the Government confirmed it was cutting funding to the Business Link service.
October 22: Stephen Catchpole is to take over as the managing director of Tees Valley Unlimited – the public and private-sector partnership which works to improve the economic performance of the area. Mr Catchpole, 57, who spearheaded the urban transformation of Wolverhampton, says there is huge potential in the Teesside area. He has pledged to forge relationships with business, partners and the voluntary sectors to help create business growth and new jobs.
October 28: The Government gives the green light to the proposal for a local enterprise partnership for the Tees Valley and indicates it will accept a second LEP for the rest of the North East. In a move widely welcomed by business leaders in the region, the Government gives its support to plans for a North East Economic Partnership which will oversee key decisions for the good of the whole region and apply for money from the new regional growth fund.
October 29: Newcastle-based Longbenton Foods provides a welcome boost to the Northumberland economy when it announces it has bought out collapsed Amble-based company Northumberland Foods. It expects to save around 100 jobs at the plant.
November 4: Northern Rock chief executive Gary Hoffman confirms long-standing rumours that he is quitting the bank with immediate effect to head up NBNK Investments, which was launched two months ago to buy banking assets from Government-backed institutions.
He later announces he will not be accepting the £500,000 pay package he is due for his six-month period of gardening leave prior to taking up his new job.
November 8: There are fears for hundreds of construction jobs in the region as national building company Rok goes into administration.
November 9: Car giant Nissan has warned the Government to invest in business or see jobs go abroad.
The company issued the warning as ministers axed a key fund that brought thousands of jobs to the region.
Nissan was awarded more than £20m from the now-abolished Grant for Business Investment scheme, enabling it to bring the manufacture of the Leaf electric car and batteries to Wearside.
The company said: “Such investment within the UK regions will be more crucial than ever if the UK is serious about rebalancing the economy. The UK has a clear choice of whether it chooses to fight for new business, new jobs and rebalance the economy or allow the opportunity of this business to go elsewhere.”
November 11: Car retailer Vertu Motors expects to see sales top £1bn this year as it continues to defy challenging market conditions. Chief executive Robert Forrester told The Journal that the Gateshead-based company – which was only formed four years ago – was now reaching a “degree of maturity”.
November 15: Durham Tees Valley introduces a new passenger fee for those travelling through the facility. Adults will be charged a supplement of £6 and children £2 at the airport. Owner Peel Airports has said the passenger facility fee is a way of safeguarding the future of the airport, which is making heavy losses.
The deal to reopen a Teesside steelworks and secure up to 1,500 jobs is just weeks from being sealed. MPs believe the Teesside Cast Products (TCP) plant in Redcar is ready to pass into the hands of Thai company SSI. Ministers say the takeover process has been boosted by the prospect of grants for training and immigration permits – which would help smooth the handover to the Asian firm.
Anywhere between 500 and 1,500 jobs will be directly secured or created by the sale of the former Corus operations, now owned by Indian group Tata Steel.
November 18: Low-cost airline Jet2.com announces it is creating around 120 new jobs at Newcastle International Airport. The airline is bringing a fifth Boeing 737 at the airport to serve an expanded network of routes.
November 25: Stewart Smith, executive chairman and owner of Ramsdens Financial, is named The Journal’s Business Executive of the Year in recognition of the rapid growth achieved at the Middlesbrough-based pawnbroking business. He is also the Tees Valley winner, while the Tyneside and Northumberland award goes to Andrew Esson, managing director of ContiTech Beattie, and the Durham and Wearside honour goes to Lanchester Wines boss Tony Cleary. Darren Williams, director of Sunderland firm Hair X-Tensions, is our Young Business Person of the Year while there is a lifetime achievement award for renowned Tyneside industrialist Herbert Loebl. Stewart Vaughan becomes our third Non-Executive Director of the Year for the contribution he has made at County Durham-based defence industry specialist Astrum.