The Journal Annual North East Business Review 2014: October

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

Port Director, Port of Sunderland, Matthew Hunt

Work began to reconnect the Port of Sunderland to rail lines that were last used almost 20 years ago.

The project will reconnect almost half a mile of rail line, with the aim of it becoming operational in the first quarter of 2015.

The rail connection will connect to the heart of the port, allowing for increased freight movement.

Matthew Hunt, director of Port of Sunderland, said the work would help the port to compete on a greater scale.

It is the latest boost to the port, which has experienced a turnaround in recent years and now handles more than 593,383 tonnes of cargo each year

Launch of Journal PayFair Scheme
Launch of Journal PayFair Scheme
 

October also saw The Journal launching a new campaign to tackle the problem of late payments to small and medium-sized businesses in the region.

The Pay Fair campaign – in partnership with the North East Institute of Business Ethics – came after figures showed £30bn was owed to UK firms, many of them SMEs that have carried out work or supplied products to larger companies or public bodies.

In extreme cases, the pressure placed on such businesses’ finances can be so extreme it can force the firms into bankruptcy.

At a launch event at Newcastle University’s Business School, regional firms were called on to adopt a fair and ethical approach towards their supply chains while promoting a culture of responsible business.

Robert Forrester, CEO of Vertu Motors
Robert Forrester, CEO of Vertu Motors
 

North East motor dealer Vertu announced plans to add to its growing estate after a record trading performance.

The Gateshead-based firm’s “buy and build” strategy led to half-year figures topping £1.083bn, an increase of 29.5%.

Teamed with favourable market conditions, the strategy also increased pre-tax profit, by 48.8% to £12.8m.

Vertu’s used cars and after-sales divisions both saw growth in volumes, revenues and gross profits – both ahead of national averages.

Geoff Thompson, chief executive of Utilitywise
Geoff Thompson, chief executive of Utilitywise
 

Energy management specialists Utilitywise announced plans to ramp up recruitment as pre-tax profits soared by 76% following recent acquisitions.

The firm’s chief executive, Geoff Thompson, announced moves into Europe, after accounts for the South Shields-based firm showed pre-tax profits rising to £13.05m in 2014 from £7.4m the year previously.

The firm, which is moving to larger premises on North Tyneside, intends to increase headcount from to 363 to 1,400.

Between 20 and 40 energy consultants are expected to join the firm’s growing ranks each month.

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Business Editor
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