The Journal Annual North East Business Review 2014: September

Businessman Barry Moat left Lugano; the Regent Centre was sold in a £296m deal and pharmaceuticals firm Aesica was acquired for £230m

Regent Centre at Gosforth
Regent Centre at Gosforth

Scanning and x-ray technology specialists Kromek Group revealed plans to double headcount at its Sedgefield operations thanks to an undisclosed investment. Chief executive Arnab Basu said the firm was building 24 new furnaces to create the detection materials which power all its products.

Early in the month, notable North East businessman Barry Moat revealed he was leaving the board of housing developers Lugano. He was replaced as chairman by Richard Robson, the former chief executive of Tynedale Council.

Gosforth office complex the Regent Centre was acquired by investment firm Kennedy Wilson Europe Real Estate Plc as part of a £296m deal. The 320,000 sq ft centre formed part of the Fordgate Jupiter portfolio, sold to the firm following its £1bn equity-raising activity. Tim Evans, proprietary partner at Knight Frank, cited the presence of airline Emirates at Newcastle International Airport, and its long-haul routes, added to the Regent Centre’s attractiveness.

Official figures surfaced to show the North East’s business continued to drive up the value of its exports – at a rate ahead of any other English region. Second quarter data showed £3.102bn worth of goods were sold to foreign markets, from the region.

Automotive manufacturing supplier Lear Corporation detailed plans to create more than 100 new jobs in doubling the size of its Wearside operations. The US-based firm aired plans to invest several million pounds to extend its Rainton Bridge Industrial Estate facilities by a further 3,500 sq m.

Within the mining industry, Durham-based Hargreaves Services boss, Gordon Banham, said the firm would be the “last coal company standing”. At the time the business increased underlying pre-tax profits by 5.6% to £55.1m. The results followed Hargreaves’ £26.9m sale of Stockton’s Imperial Tankers – taking the group’s debt to zero.

Diagnostic testing kit specialist Immunodiagnostic Systems Holdings (IDS) acquired Italian firm Diametra. The Boldon-based firm grew its manufacturing and development capabilities with the deal. IDS assumed control of Diametra’s Umbrian operations, which employs around 25 staff.

Midway through the month prominent North East businessman Graham Wylie revealed he was on the acquisition trail to expand his Speedflex fitness concept. The Sage founder had originally sold the Speedflex Newcastle centre as a franchise before buying it back to act as a base from which to expand.

Sean Dempsey/PA Wire A Phones 4u store
A Phones 4u store

In a story which made national headlines – some 157 staff across 22 of Phones 4u’s North East stores faced an uncertain future as the mobile phone retailer entered administration, triggered by EE’s decision not to renew its retail partnership with the chain. David Kassler, the firm’s chief executive, described the events as a “very sad day” for Phones 4u customers and staff.

Life sciences firm Cambridge Research Biochemicals opened its 10,000 sq ft facility in Billingham, which was part-funded by The Journal and Evening Gazette’s Let’s Grow fund. The facilities include new laboratory space with a cell culture suite and offices.

Robert Hardy, CEO of Aesica Pharmaceuticals
Robert Hardy, CEO of Aesica Pharmaceuticals

At the close of the month, Newcastle-headquartered pharmaceutical firm Aesica revealed it would be acquired by Consort Medical plc. Jonathan Glenn, Consort Medical chief executive, said the £230m deal would provide a prompt payback in terms of potential new earnings. Aesica chief executive Robert Hardy said his firm looked forward to pursuing contract manufacturing opportunities under the ownership of Consort Medical plc.


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