Record year for Kilfrost amid growing exports

Kilfrost, which reported losses in 2012 following a mild winter, achieved profit of £4.1m for the year ended September 30, 2013

Gary Lydiate of Kilfrost
Gary Lydiate of Kilfrost

Freezing conditions in the USA and product diversification have helped North East de-icer company Kilfrost plc record its strongest year to date.

The Newcastle-headquartered firm, which reported losses in 2012 following a mild winter, achieved profit of £4.1m for the year ended September 30, 2013.

The company, which caters mainly for the rail and aviation industries, also boosted turnover from £39.1 to £62.6m

Chief executive Gary Lydiate said Kilfrost, which exports to 63 countries, had benefitted greatly from icy conditions throughout America.

There had also been “gentle but significant” growth in China, while a diversification of the product range, begun five years ago as means of mitigating against the unpredictable impact of the weather, was also paying off, with European revenue on refrigeration and heat transfer pump applications increasing by 100% last year.

“The year ending 30 September 2013 was our strongest year ever,” Lydiate said.

“Having a market share of one third of the globe means that it is always winter somewhere, as we can see in North America today.

“By spreading our business around the world we were able to take advantage of the severe conditions in many places.

“We are always in discussion with different airlines and airports using our products.

“With 82 per cent of our business being export, the overseas market is the key to our success.”

Founded in Whitley Bay in 1930s, the family owned Kilfrost’s first de-icers were used to clear football pitches, including Newcastle United’s St James’ Park.

It then moved on to defrosting products for the Royal Air Force, British Rail and Arctic-bound ships.

With the outbreak of the war, Kilfrost expanded and, by the 1960s, had created a number of new anti-icing products for car engines.

The 1990s, then, saw it launch a successful runway de-icer, and today it exports its products throughout five different continents.

With bases in the USA and China, the firm supplies a third of the world’s aircraft de-icing fluid, and during Lydiate’s six years or so at the helm, staff numbers have increased from 26 to 94.

Although the company’s core product and intellectual property remain in the UK, Kilfrost has grown a significant global presence and in July last year signed a deal in Kazakhstan during a UK Government trade mission potentially worth up to £50m within the next five to 10 years.

While there, the company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the mayor of the city of Astana and afterwards confirmed it hoped to open a new manufacturing plant in the country, complementing its manufacturing facilities in the UK, North America, Japan and Belgium

Huge opportunities could also be created through the extensive rail network in the region, which extends from Shanghai to Antwerp, and through a thriving aviation industry that includes the like of Air Astana.

“We are in contract negotiations and are considering our manufacturing options for the future - not just in Kazakhstan but elsewhere too,” Lydiate said yesterday.

He added that the company was hopeful of opportunities stemming from a growing UK economy.

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