The Journal Annual North East Business Review 2014: July

We look at the stories that dominated North East business news in July 2014

Businessman Jeremy Middleton
Businessman Jeremy Middleton

Atom Bank, the breakthrough digital lender, stole the headlines at the beginning of the month as it announced backing from prominent North East investor Jeremy Middleton. Atom, founded by financial entrepreneur Anthony Thomson, promises 300 jobs in the North East and is expected to launch in 2015. Speaking at the time Mr Middleton said he was proud to be getting behind Mr Thomson and his team, and his investment reflected a belief the North East needed more “high-quality” national businesses.

At the same time international coatings specialists Barrier Group revealed plans for a £1.8m investment into a new factory and office building to be developed on the banks of the River Tyne. The firm submitted plans for a 2,720 sq m facility on Hadrian Way, using £164,000 Regional Growth Fund grant through the Journal and Evening Gazette’s Let’s Grow programme, backed by BE Group and UNW LLP.

The owners of Newcastle’s Vermont Hotel, Gainford Hotels, announced plans to make a multi-million pound investment into Newcastle Quayside. The firm detailed plans to transform Chase Bar and its adjoining buildings into the Vermont Aparthotel - a plan which promised 120 jobs. The hotel, which will have two penthouse suites and 11 luxury apartments, will be built above the existing bar and is set to open in 2015.

In mid July, automotive retailers Benfield Group reported their 2013 year, which brought turnover of £622.4m. It represented a 15% year-on-year rise for the North East firm, which also saw operating profit increase from £4.7m to £9.1m.

County Durham’s Hydram Engineering, a supplier of sheet metal components, announced its intention to extend its 100,000 sq ft base by 15,000 sq ft, using a £477,708 Regional Growth Fund grant via the The Journal and The Gazette’s Let’s Grow programme, backed by BE Group and UNW LLP.

Paul Stonebanks, managing director of AIS
Paul Stonebanks, managing director of AIS

Accounts for offshore technologies provider DeepOcean Group showed the firm had turned £2.7m operating losses into £9.4m in 2013. Major offshore contracts in China, Middle East, Germany, West Africa and the North Sea had boosted the Darlington-based firm.

AIS, the North Tyneside offshore training firm, detailed plans to launch a £2.5m survival centre that will train thousands of offshore workers. The 20,000 sq ft North Shields facility was developed in response to growing demand, and used £250,000 of Let’s Grow funding.

Birtley-based excavator manufacturer Komatsu UK reported a return to profit after a stronger year in the construction sector lifted rise in demand. The firm had suffered heavy losses in the year ended March 2013, thanks to a depressed European market, but reported operating profit of £4.4m from £153.1m of sales.

Towards the end of the month accounts filed for Newcastle International Airport showed passenger numbers grew 1.4% in 2013 4.46m.

New facilities, new services and the frequency of those services, as well as the introduction of larger aircraft at the airport, had helped to drive up numbers.


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