The Journal Annual North East Business Review 2014: March

We look back at the North East business news from March 2014

Gordon Jack/scotimage.com
Virgin Money chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia

Virgin Money, which took over nationalised lender Northern Rock in January 2012, was poised for major growth after a year that saw significant improvements in the bank’s profitability and the laying of foundations for a shift into the retail savings market.

Financial results for the firm showed that in 2013, it achieved an underlying profit of £53.4m, compared to a underlying loss of £2.5m in 2012.

Statutory profit before tax, meanwhile, rose from £150.6m to £179.4m, while total assets increased 13% to £24.6bn and the firm’s net interest margin (NIM) went from 0.54% to 1.26%.

Throughout the period, Virgin Money took on 250 permanent staff, with 180 new posts being created in Newcastle, bringing the total employed in the North East to around 1,800.

Two organisations struck a deal devised to see Newcastle become an internationally recognised centre of excellence for bringing science to life for the public.

Northumbria University and the International Centre for Life formally launched a partnership that will see the institutions work together on research projects, a postgraduate professional development programme and exhibitions. It was also hoped that jobs would be created.

The ambitious collaborative learning and research partnership was sealed through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.

Brothers Graham, left and Chris Nixon of Nixon Hire, who won Company of the Year
Brothers Graham, left and Chris Nixon of Nixon Hire, who won Company of the Year
 

Newcastle firm Nixon Hire was named Company of the Year at the Tyneside and Northumberland Business Awards 2014.

From modest roots, the business had grown to employ more than 350 staff, recording a 2013 turnover of £32.3m.

The other two short-listed firms in the Company of the Year category were the Gateshead-headquartered Vertu Motors and AAF International.

The black-tie event was hosted by Kim Inglis, with BBC business reporter Steph McGovern as guest speaker.

Plans to transform the site of the former Blyth power station into a thriving cluster of businesses working in the offshore sector moved a step closer.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership handed over £600,000 from its Investment Fund to Arch, the Northumberland Development Company, for preparatory remediation and design studies on the land, which lies within an Enterprise Zone.

Ultimately, it is hoped the East Sleekburn site can be marketed to businesses in the offshore industry, creating a cluster around the neighbouring National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) and the deepwater docking facilities offered by the Port of Blyth.

Arch Group managing director Peter McIntyre said: “The aim is to create a major deepwater facility for use for offshore industries, generating significant jobs, investment and partnerships between the Port of Blyth, Narec and the broader Northumberland supply chain.”

Ted Ayres, chief executive, Bellway
Ted Ayres, chief executive, Bellway
 

North East-based housebuilder Bellway said it planned to lift house building volumes by 20%, having posted record first-half revenues and pre-tax profits of more than £100m.

The Newcastle-based business said it had seen a strong start to the spring selling season, leading to a 39.5% lift in sales to £701.1m for the six months to January 31 2014.

Pre-tax profits soared by 73.3% to £109.2m and 3,245 new homes had been sold, an increase of 25% compared with the same period the year before.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer