The Journal Annual North East Business Review 2014: August

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

Martyn Cuthbert, left, and Ian Farrar of On:trac
Martyn Cuthbert, left, and Ian Farrar of On:trac

Kicking off the month, Potts Print (UK) Ltd, revealed its takeover of North Tyneside-based Bakershaw Print Ltd. The chief executive of Cramlington-based Potts Print, Michael Sandford-Couch, also indicated further acquisition negotiations were on the table.

Elsewhere Gateshead-based On:trac secured a multi-million pound contract with Network Rail to use its eTrac product to collect data on railway infrastructure operations.

The firm’s managing director, Martyn Cuthbert, said the deal was just one of many potential opportunities in the pipeline.

Sunderland-founded holiday firm Hays Travel reported a fall in profits, despite a 22% rise in turnover to £172.7m, during its 2013 year. Hays said the launch of its long-haul holiday’s business Hays Faraway had brought in £40m in sales in its first year.

On August 8 software giants Sage revealed senior civil servant Stephen Kelly was to take the reins from retiring chief executive Guy Berruyer. The FTSE100 firm announced Mr Kelly would receive a basic annual salary of £790,000.

Construction vehicles manufacturers Hitachi Construction Machinery UK reported a 50% rise in pre-tax profits, and suggested a number of new jobs would be in the pipeline. Pre-tax profit reached £8.2m in the year ended March 2014.

Tyneside-based pharmaceutical manufacturers SCM Pharma were acquired by clients Shire in a deal triggered when one of its licences was revoked. The firm’s assets were acquired by Shire in a move which was understood to safeguard all of the 80-strong workforce spread across its Prudhoe and Newburn sites.

Meanwhile, another pharmaceuticals firm, Bristol Laboratories, announced plans to create 300 jobs over the next five years. The firm acquired a facility at Peterlee’s Whitehouse Business Park with the intention to double manufacturing capabilities and create a research and development department.

Steven Forrest, CEO of Wallsend's Forfusion
Steven Forrest, CEO of Wallsend's Forfusion

Tyneside technology services outfit Forfusion, based at Cobalt Business Park, reported a record £1.4m turnover thanks to more than 20 new contract wins with large clients. The unified communications firm said turnover had increased by 120% over 12 months.

Elsewhere the findings of a top economic growth tracker showed Tyneside, Hartlepool, Stockton and Northumberland were all leading the North East’s economic growth. Results of the RBS Growth Tracker showed growth in business services, transport and distribution sectors, across Tyneside, outstripped the rest of the region in the second quarter of the year.

Towards the end of the month Newcastle-headquartered Independent pub chain Sir John Fitzgerald revealed a fall in pre-tax profit from £337,004 to £156,050 in the year to the end of January 2014. Directors of the firm said it could be some time before North East punters’ confidence returned, and they started spending at the bar.

Project Manager Andy Morrell and engineers from Japan with new machinery at Express Engineering in Gateshead
Project Manager Andy Morrell and engineers from Japan with new machinery at Express Engineering in Gateshead

Gateshead-based precision engineering firm Express Engineering created 30 new jobs after securing a grant from The Journal’s Let’s Grow Fund. The firm invested £1.5m in a unique piece of machinery for its sixth Tyneside factory. The multi-tasking Mazak machine is the first of its kind in the UK and only the second in Europe.

In the legal sector a former chief executive of the Football Association joined the sports agency arm of Newcastle law firm, Quantum Law LLP. Ian Watmore, formerly a Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office, joined Quantum’s Dean Street offices as a non-executive chairman.


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