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Business news

Work on new Dundee waterfront hotel to start in new year

December 28 2016

A globally-recognised hotel brand is coming to Dundee waterfront, delivering a major boost to the city’s regeneration efforts. Work will start in the new year to refurbish the former Baxter Brothers Mills at East Port into a boutique Indigo hotel with an anticipated opening date of March 2018. Indigo is part of the InterContinental Hotel Group, whose other brands include Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. The arrival of such a quality establishment is seen as a vote of confidence in the project to revive Dundee’s economy through the ambitious £1 billion redevelopment of the waterfront crowned by the V&A Museum of Design. It will also bring much-needed investment to the east end of the city centre where economic decline has left a legacy of closed businesses and decaying buildings. The decline was in sharp focus at Baxter Brothers’ Lower Dens Works, once one of Dundee’s finest Victorian structures but now a building on the “at risk” register. The former Grade A listed flax works comprised the St Roque’s North, Bell and Dens Mills and was a major producer of linen. A scheme to convert the property into housing failed and initial plans to develop it into a hotel were halted when former owners Lindores (Lower Dens) Ltd went into administration. The site was bought by London-based real estate and finance company Percor Capital. In September its director Jean-Pierre Permutt said he was finalising plans for the first phase of the site’s redevelopment with a view to it being a hotel. He has now announced that in early 2017 Percor Capital will commence extensive refurbishment of the first phase of the Lower Dens former Baxter Brothers Mills site into a 96 bedroom 4-star boutique hotel branded as an Indigo, part of the InterContinental Hotel Group. He continued: “This important conversion of a severely dilapidated Grade A listed building is the first phase of Percor’s plans. “It will comprise one of the finest hotels in Dundee which builds on the huge regeneration of the city. “The conversion of Bell Mill and North Mill will be carried out to preserve as much of the character of the building but at the same time providing Dundee with a modern high quality full service hotel.” He said the large construction contract will employ 120 people at its peak. Once open the hotel is expected to create some 60 new jobs and a significant level of procurement on an ongoing basis from a wide number of local suppliers. Percor Capital is in the process of submitting a planning application for the next phase comprising St. Roques Mill and Dens Mill. These elements are designed to be complementary to the Indigo with a view to bringing the entire Grade A listed former mills back into use. Mr Permutt said the availability of key regeneration incentives through Business Premises Renovation Allowances, which are to come to an end in April 2017, has been a key factor in Percor’s ability to deliver the important regeneration of the previously redundant site.

Business news

Games producer Outplay Entertainment cuts loss as sales rise

May 24 2016

Dundee video games producer Outplay Entertainment more than doubled its turnover and cut its pre-tax loss by more than two thirds. Director Douglas Hare said 2015 saw further investment in building talented teams to successfully deliver strongly performing new titles through frequent and new and feature updates. Last year its new titles included Crafty Candy, Bubble Genius, and Angry Birds POP!. Previous top performing titles were Alien Creeps TD and Mystery Match. The firm’s loss before tax shrank from £2.9m to £900,000 in 2015 while turnover soared from £2.6 million to £6.3m. Mr Hare continued: “Overall, a significant reduction in operating loss was achieved mainly from the 240% year on year revenue growth we saw in 2015 from the company’s portfolio of six self-published titles as well as the Angry Birds game launched in partnership with Rovio. “We launched two new titles in Q4 last year both of which are doing very well. Crafty Candy in particular is showing very strong commercial prospects and we anticipate it growing significantly over the coming months. “Angry Birds POP! has grown steadily since its launch last March and it’s now a permanent fixture in the US Top 100 grossing chart on the App Store.” “Further growth is expected as the products are enhanced further and new products released during 2016. “We’re doing everything we can to hit a similar level of growth in 2016 as we did last year and also do it profitably.” Outplay was formed in 2011 by brothers Douglas and Richard Hare and last year it crossed the 50 million download mark. Douglas and Richard spent a significant part of their careers in the video games industry in the United States before setting up in Dundee.  

Business news

Trade body calls on UK Government to recommit to oil and gas industry

November 7 2016

Oil & Gas UK wants Chancellor Philip Hammond to use his Autumn Statement to help boost investor confidence in North Sea exploration and production. The North Sea oil and gas industry faces fierce global competition to attract investment, with the challenges of a low oil price, a maturing industry and uncertainty for the sector. Oil & Gas UK's recently published Economic Report 2016 found that investment in the UK continental shelf has fallen to around £9 billion this year, from a record £14.8 billion in 2014. The reduction illustrated the difficulty for investors in accessing finance for asset development. Deirdre Michie, Oil & Gas UK's chief executive, said:“Sentiment and stability are important, and the Chancellor has a real opportunity to use the Autumn Statement to send a clear message to investors that the UK Continental Shelf is a great place to do business.“ Exploration and development drilling has fallen to record lows, and a drought of new investment suggests 2016 and 2017 will be no better. “I have asked Mr Hammond to get behind the UK’s oil and gas industry by providing certainty in our fiscal regime and recommitting to the Treasury’s ‘Driving Investment’ strategy for the sector," she stated. As part of the UK’s new industrial strategy, there should also be recognition of the supply chain as a key strength in the economy, with world leading capability – equally valuable as aerospace or the automotive sectors." "The UK oil and gas industry is much more globally competitive than it was two years ago," she continued. "The cost of doing business in the North Sea has come down significantly and production has increased for the first time in 15 years thanks to the industry’s efforts to make its operations more efficient. “We urgently need to see new entrants encouraged into the market and increased asset trading is one area that could boost activity in the North Sea by facilitating the trading of late-life assets." Deirdre Michie said investors are also looking for certainty and the importance of government sending a strong signal of confidence and support can't be underestimated. Oil & Gas UK wants the UK Government to re-affirm its continued commitment to the Driving Investment fiscal strategy recognising the need for a more competitive, simple and predictable fiscal regime as the basin continues to mature. It also wants the government to promote the increasing competitiveness of the basin as well as the capability of the UK’s oil and gas supply chain as part of the UK’s new industrial strategy. Completing work on decommissioning tax relief over recent budgets through measures to transfer tax relief upon an asset sale is another demand. The trade body says new measures to extend the Investment Allowance for operating expenditure to increase production from an asset or keep it producing for longer would also help.

Business news

Dundee contractor’s unsecured creditors to lose £750,000

November 15 2016

Troubled Dundee contractor Jaydee Heating is set to be dissolved leaving unsecured creditors out of pocket to the tune of more than £750,000. Administrators RSM Restructuring said the secured creditor, the Royal Bank of Scotland, is anticipated to receive a final dividend of 77p in the £ on its claim of £104,000 - a payment in the region of £80,000. The preferential creditors - employees and tax authorities - have had their claim of £44,000 settled. Unsecured creditors, including suppliers, submitted claims worth £751,944. It has not been possible to pay them any money so far and RSM Restructuring said the future prospects of making any payment are nil. Jaydee, in Wester Gourdie industrial estate, carried out industrial and commercial heating as well as electrical and plumbing work. It went into administration in November 2015 with debts of almost £400,000 after prolonged trading difficulties. Employing 20 people, it operated in a highly competitive market in the Dundee area. Any work won was at the expense of profit margins that were being increasingly squeezed as competition for work intensified. In 2014 it fell into the red with a pre-tax loss of £111,694 from a turnover of £2.868m. Last year the turnover was down at under £900,000 as the firm reduced its activities, but it still made a loss before tax of £29,284. Earlier this year the administrators raised the possibility of the firm receiving a compensation payment from the possible mis-selling by its bank of an interest rate hedging product. They investigated whether the firm wrongly bought a product intended to be a protection against 
interest rate rises. The products were financially 
speculative and complex, and were often a condition for a bank agreeing to provide a loan facility. Banks incentivised the sale of the products and exit fees were often not fully disclosed. In their latest report the administrators said an agreement was recently reached between the Financial Conduct Authority and certain major banks including the Royal Bank of Scotland in relation to the sale of interest rate hedging products. Having looked further into the matter, the administrators said they were not aware of Jaydee being sold one of the products. To wind up the company's affairs, the administrators have lodged a formal notice of a move from administration to dissolution.

Business news

Fife builder blames profits fall on project delays

December 23 2016

Fife builder Campion Homes said its performance was affected by deferred starts on a number of larger projects last year. The Dunfermline company’s turnover was down 7.7% at £14.5 million and pre-tax profit fell by 19.7% to just over £555,000 in the year to June. Chairman Pete Bell said the fall in turnover was primarily due to deferred starts on a number of larger projects as a result of delays in obtaining statutory approvals. The chairman said the proportion of private house sales was higher than in 2015, and the gross margin rose from 15.4% to 18.6%, but the operating profit percentage fell from 4.4% to 4%. The average staff numbers increased from 61 to 79 to support the future growth plans of the company. Campion said its success in securing a multi-million pound investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF) in July would help accelerate its building programme in both private residential and affordable homes. The investment led to the further strengthening of Campion’s board with Mike Stansfield, formerly of national builder David Wilson Homes, and the BGF’s Patrick Graham joining as non-executive directors. Campion, which builds homes in the private and social housing markets, said BGF’s investment would help with the firm’s plans to build 700 homes over the next five years. Construction work and sales began at two at two new private development sites during 2016. Its developments at Rosemount in Leven, Laurel Bank in Springfield and Hawthorn Bank in Kingseat are being marketed at present, while its Law View estate in Leven is awaiting development. Campion’s estates at The Grange and Linen Mill, Freuchie, are sold out. Mr Bell, who controls 99.9% of the ordinary share capital, said rising raw material prices continue to impact on the profitability of contracts with the availability of high quality labour and associated rising prices representing risks to the business. He added: “Despite recent economic uncertainties the company continues to observe strong demand with its private housing division. “The directors continuously consider economic risk within this market and remains flexible to adapt plans if required. “Looking ahead, the directors believe that the results for the year and the strong financial position at the year end mean that the company is well placed to take advantage of opportunities in the current market place.”

Business news

Kettle Produce harvests more success in 40th anniversary year

February 8 2017

Fife-based Kettle Produce Limited has strengthened its position as one of the UK’s leading fresh produce suppliers, during a  successful 40th anniversary year. The company’s turnover increased by 12.5% to £113.6 million in the year to May 28, 2016.Pre-tax profit was up 13.75% at £2.374m. Kettle Produce was formed in 1976 with the company of less than 200 staff supplying only local wholesalers and greengrocers. It has grown into one of Fife’s largest private sector employers and now provides full time permanent jobs for over 1000 employees, the vast majority of whom live in the surrounding communities. It now produces 100,000 tonnes of fresh root vegetables, green vegetables and salad crops each year from its sites at Orkie near Freuchie, and Balmalcolm near Cupar, and is a major supplier of fresh produce to a number of the UK’s leading retailers. Kettle Produce also has a joint venture  in Murcia, Spain, and operates several strategic supply partnerships with major growers in England, France, Spain and Portugal covering more than 6,000 hectares. Financial director Liz Waugh cited new sales lines, the availability of ample raw produce and the ability to exploit new and existing markets as key contributing factors to the firm’s success.   “As is being seen across mainland Europe at the moment, growing conditions are variable and affected by weather," she stated. "This can have a significant impact on operational costs and crop yield. “However, this last financial year proved to be a favourable one for Kettle Produce. "We were able to benefit from ample good quality raw materials. In turn, this has allowed for efficient production practices which has further benefited trading. "The past year was also exciting due to innovation and changing consumer trends which led to the introduction of many new sales lines. “Constant adaptation to market conditions and investment in innovation have been cornerstones of our business practice throughout the years." The successful year coincided with the company's 40th anniversary during which it has been very active supporting mainly local charities and organisations. Kettle Produce partnered with the Fife Flyers ice-hockey team as a community partner to spread the word about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and a nutritious diet to Fife's younger population. Ms Waugh added: “Trading in the new year is currently ahead of budget and the board is confident that our year end targets will be achieved.” She expected the firm will be under cost pressures this year due to challenging economic conditions and the recent devaluation of the pound against the euro.

Business news

Kirriemuir businessman shortlisted for top prize

November 17 2016

A prominent Angus businessman has been shortlisted for the prize of Scotland's emerging entrepreneur of the year. Jean-Christophe Granier (33) is joint managing director of Kirriemuir-based textile manufacturer J&D Wilkie. He said: “It is a huge privilege, and a surprise, to be nominated as an emerging entrepreneur finalist. "My fellow nominees have built excellent businesses and I am thrilled to join their company. "The team and I see this nomination as a watershed moment – it recognises we have the right people, working hard in the right direction, to release the undeniable potential of our business and our sector.” JC, as he is known, left an accomplished legal career to join J&D Wilkie in late 2012. Recognised as a visionary leader, he has an ambition for J&D Wilkie that encompasses US expansion, new investment, potential acquisitions and manufacturing targets stretching to 2021. Originally in the jute industry, the 148-year-old family business manufactures high-performance textile technology for multiple sectors in international markets. It has textile manufacturing and engineering operations in Scotland and China, as well as research and development, engineering and sales sites in England, India and Japan to cater for customers in Europe, North America and Asia. Last year, J&D Wilkie invested £3 million in a new 190,000 square ft. factory in Jiaxing, near Shanghai. The facility houses an integrated spinning and weaving unit, designed to consolidate operations and support growth in China. The move strengthened the company’s position in Europe where its Scottish weaving unit has almost doubled since yarn production started in China. J&D Wilkie has experienced steady global growth since JC’s tenure, with turnover increasing by 18% and profitability by 121%. Last year the J&D Wilkie holding company with a workforce of 295 achieved revenue of £20.33m and a pre-tax profit of almost £950,000. Proud of his French heritage on his father's side, JC as a student imported wine to the UK from his grandfather’s vineyard in the south of France. His father had a career in the oil and gas industry, and the influences fired JC's entrepreneurial spirit. Specifically, the emerging entrepreneur category recognises individuals who are building organisations of outstanding potential. The senior award is for business leaders who have delivered growth in revenue and profits through innovation and teamwork. Previous winners have included some of Scotland's most high profile entrepreneurs such as Sir Tom Hunter and Perthshire butcher Simon Howie. The winners will be announced at the St Andrews Night annual dinner of Entrepreneurial Scotland, an organisation chaired by Dundee video games developer Chris van der Kuyl. The awards are in association with professional services firm Deloitte.

Business news

Record profit at James Donaldson for second year

August 31 2016

Fife-based timber specialist, James Donaldson & Sons increased its pre-tax profit by more than 32% to £5.9 million. Turnover for the year to March 31 slipped back 4.3% to £127.1m but non-executive chairman Neil Donaldson said: "The business has continued to develop further alongside a generally positive UK wide housing market." While still below 2007-2008 levels, business improved during the year and Donaldson's market share remained strong. James Donaldson & Sons Ltd incorporates James Donaldson Timber, Donaldson Timber Engineering, MGM Timber (Scotland) and James Donaldson Insulation and operates from 25 sites across the UK. Donaldson reported high activity levels across the group but subdued timber prices throughout the year impacted negatively on turnover. The closure of Donaldson's underperforming hardwood  operation in Brill, Buckinghamshire, resulted in a loss in sales. Profit margins increased across all businesses and although the impact of new accounting standards involved £374,000 of charges, the group reported a second consecutive year of record profitability. Group managing director, Scott Cairns said “2015-2016 was another progressive period of trading for the business with each one of our operating divisions improving on the previous year. "Although average selling prices fell across our product range, very much linked to the strength of sterling as well as competitive pressure, our market share actually increased in all of our operations. "Improved operational efficiency, aided by record levels of capital investment and strong cost control assisted in delivering our overall increased profitability.” He said a nationally strong housing and regionally buoyant repair, maintenance and improvement market pre-Brexit was showing signs of slowing. "We will watch conditions carefully in the coming months as the post Brexit market adjusts to a new reality," he added. "There are challenges ahead, however, we face them from a position of strength and a close understanding of our market and our clients expectations.”  

Business news

Scottish retail industry’s “mixed bag” of July figures

August 15 2016

Scotland had fewer empty shops last month - but fewer people visited the shops that were open. Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale described the July figures as "a mixed bag." The reduction in the shop vacancy rate was welcome, but he said it was "unfortunately coupled with shopper footfall flagging once again." The Scottish shop vacancy rate improved to 7.5% in July from 8.4% in April. It was 10.6% in July 2015. Footfall fell by 1.9% in July from the 3.3% fall in June, the second consecutive month of declining shopper numbers. The trend was worse than the three-month average of minus 1.5% and 12 month average of minus 1.6%. Mr Lonsdale said the fact that the continued footfall dip in July was worse than the three month average pointed to a continuing fragility in demand and the ongoing popularity of online retailing. The second quarterly improvement in the vacancy rate was encouraging but he said it remained to be seen whether it reflected units being taken up on a temporary or more sustained basis. He added: "Retailers’ prospects are ultimately determined by the state of the economy, the balance between their income and costs and their own ability to adapt and seize on the opportunities that arise. "These are testing times for the industry which is Scotland’s largest private sector employer. "The Holyrood Government and MSPs can assist by taking tangible action in the upcoming Scottish Budget to bolster consumer and business sentiment." Retailers would be looking for a clear road map for future tax and regulatory changes, he said. They wanted a tight lid on personal and business tax rates and charges, and the scrapping of the Scotland-only rates surcharge on medium and larger sized firms. The Scottish vacancy figure contrasted with the UK's where vacancies increased by 0.5% to 10.1%. Footfall in the UK was down by 0.4%, less than the 1.9% in Scotland. Diane Wehrle of analysts Springboard said July had seen a break in the clouds in some retail areas, with better weather and strong end of sale discounting helping to lessen the decline in high street footfall in Scotland. Scotland had the second lowest vacancy rate of any area in the UK and the July rate had noticeably improved over the year. She added: "Across the UK it seems that the EU Referendum and political and economic uncertainty of the last quarter will have deterred some retailers from taking on leases but Scotland appears to have been insulated from this."

Business news

Fife-linked photonics group recovering

June 8 2016

Gooch & Housego, the specialist 
manufacturer of optical components and systems with a presence in Fife, is confident of emerging well from a tougher start to the year. Revenue in the six months to March 31 was down £500,000 to £38.4 million and adjusted pre-tax profit was down £700,000 to £5.6m. Chief executive Mark Webster said the first half performance of the Somerset-based group was expected. The industrial laser market was weaker in the first half because of lower demand from China for lasers in microelectronic manufacturing, but he said that market is recovering. The aerospace and defence market, characterised by high-value, long-term programmes involving US and European defence contractors, is also recovering after being down in the first six months. The group enjoyed a strong performance from telecommunications and fibre sensing products, and revealed a robust order book up 13.1% at £39.1m at March 31. Mr Webster commented: "G&H is well-positioned to benefit from improving market conditions and has the capacity to respond to increasing demand. "Our commitment to diversification has enabled us to navigate a challenging period at the beginning of the year and still be on track to deliver our full year expectations. "We remain committed to our strategy of diversification and moving up the value chain whilst continuing to invest in our continuous improvement programme, which will underpin future performance.’’ The group invested £3.5m in Research and Development (R&D) in the half year, representing 9.1% of revenue and 8% higher than the same period of last year. That continued commitment to targeted R&D was bearing fruit, the group said, with a record 13 new products launched at a major trade show. The group's operations include Spanoptic in Glenrothes, the 60-employee site which makes precision optical instruments for aerospace and defence industries. Mr Webster said the group was very happy with the performance of its Fife base, with new key personnel in place to work in important markets with growth potential. Spanoptic's pre-tax profit fell by more than £1m to under £400,000 in the year to September 2015, but Mr Webster said the results covered the first year of its integration into the parent group and were not representative of performance.

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