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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

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

£1m support for “doctor on your arm” from Dundee

February 21 2017

A health technology company founded by a former Dundee University medical student has won a £1 million contract for the further development of its "doctor on your arm." Snap40’s wearable armband continuously monitors patents’ vital signs and sends out an SOS to medical staff if it detects signs of serious illness. The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) healthcare development contract from NHS England allows the company to further scale its technology and carry out clinical studies with NHS Fife and NHS Lothian’s Emergency Medicine Research Group Edinburgh (EMERGE). In an ideal world patients would have dedicated doctors sitting with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Increasing pressure on healthcare systems and challenges in prioritising demands has made that level of care impossible. Company founder Christopher McCann said: “Snap40 changes that. “It allows our world-class healthcare staff to care for many more patients by helping them to prioritise who needs attention most. “This contract from NHS England is a recognition of the value our product can bring to health services all over the world.” He added: “With the elderly population rapidly expanding and requiring far more health and care resources, snap40 is a catalyst for change in health and care pathways to meet these resource challenges. Dr Amanda Wood, NHS Fife’s assistant research and development director said: “We are delighted to continue collaborating with snap40. Their product has the potential to change how we deliver healthcare.” The contract continues snap 40’s impressive progress, with the product likely to receive CE marking for European Conformity next month. Last year it received investment of £2 million from Edinburgh firm Par Equity, understood to be the largest sum ever awarded to a Scottish start-up. Christopher started the company as a medical student at Dundee. He was spurred into action after seeing the deterioration of intermittently monitored patients due to the late recognition of warning signs.

Business news

Electronics firm’s vision for Fife medical technology hub

November 12 2016

A young Fife company making impressive progress in sub-contract electronic manufacturing believes the region can have a bright future as a  medical technology hub. John Cramb and Gavin Howe set up Bay Solutions Scotland in in 2013, at a premises in Dalgety Bay. Applying their 50 years of design and management experience in electronics manufacturing, their business made a turnover of £92,000 in the first year. Orders poured in and the 2016 revenue grew to £482,000 with a pre-tax profit of £90,000. Bay opened a second manufacturing premises in Glenrothes and has added seven more staff to give it a workforce of nine. With prestigious ISO certifications for the quality of its service, Bay carries out all stages of electronic mechanical assembly, from advice in new product design to component procurement through to product completion and testing. It also provides a logistics service, exporting its customers finished products all over the world. Its specialisation in the manufacture of medical devices secured work for the snap40, the wearable monitoring device developed by former Dundee University medical student Christopher McCann to help hospitals quickly pick up signs of patients' deteriorating health. After receiving £2 million in funding from investors led by Par Equity, snap40 is completing a major clinical trial at a UK hospital with the aim of going on the market in early 2017. In another sector contract, Bay is manufacturing surgical instrument tracking technology for real-time objective performance feedback for Edinburgh based EoSurgical. John believes Fife could create a medical hub whereby businesses could collaborate to create a new industry for the Kingdom. "Electronics and instrument engineering is one of five sectors that make up two-thirds Scotland’s exports, and we have scope to build on this," he commented. "I believe Fife has an opportunity to capture the market for medical new product development and manufacturing with support from Fife Council and Fife Business Gateway.” Committed to the local workforce, Bay has three staff from Opportunities Fife, a government funded recruitment programme for 16-25 year olds not currently in education or employment. John said: “I have grown my career here in Fife and am committed to providing our young people with the same opportunities. "Fife is a good place to do business, both logistically and also in terms of the quality of people available.” Bay's founders are also keen to support British companies, as John explained: “Britain has a good reputation for producing high quality products, particularly metalwork. "It is difficult to compete against China for mouldings and plastics but there is something reassuring about sourcing raw materials closer to home. It also makes good business sense.”

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

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

Bell Ingram now a LLP

April 26 2016

Perth-based land and property agents Bell Ingram have become a Limited Liability Partnership. LLP status limits the liability of partners to the amount of money they invest in the business and offers advantages with tax and national insurance. By changing to a LLP, the former company was put into liquidation. Spokesman Gordon Thoms said: “This form of liquidation is a solvent kind, in order to make Bell Ingram a limited liability company. “All the assets of Bell Ingram were transferred to the LLP, along with our staff, so there haven’t been any redundancies.” He continued: “We’ve always been known as Bell Ingram and it is business as usual." Bell Ingram employ 110 people at nine offices in the UK. The head office is in Isla Road, Perth. They were set up in 1899 in Perthshire and are now among the UK’s biggest firms of independent land agents. They specialise in rural land management for private clients and are one of the UK’s leading providers of land management services to the energy sector.

Business news

Outdoor retailer Mountain Warehouse scales new heights

May 16 2016

UK outdoor retailer Mountain Warehouse delivered a fourth year of record results, with sales growing by 28.7%. The firm said the performance, despite the tough UK retail environment and unpredictable weather, demonstrated the resilience of its business model. Sales were up 28.7% to £141.4 million, like-for-like sales were up 19.3% and online sales rose 47% and now account for 20% of revenue. A fifth of all sales are now derived from international operations. Pre-tax profits were up 36% at £16.2m, with both stores and online operations - “bricks and clicks” - delivering growth. From a single shop in Swindon the company has grown in 20 years to over 240 stores employing more than 2,000 people. Its 23 Scottish outlets include Dundee, Dunfermline, Perth and Pitlochry. It opened 40 stores last year and plans to open another 40 in 2016/17, half of them overseas, creating another 400 jobs. Foreign outlets include North America, Ireland and Germany. Mountain Warehouse sells more than 12 million items a year from jackets and fleeces to rucksacks and sleeping bags. It also sells items for running and cycling. The firm said it weather-proofed its business, by widening its offer to include more summer ranges, particularly for children. Founder and chief executive Mark Neale said: “The past year has been a tough one for the UK retail sector and our performance vindicates the hard work we have done to ensure we give customers the right products at the right price both online and in store.” He added: “There would have been a time when I was terrified by a hot, sunny day. But we have worked very hard to weather-proof the business, ensuring that we have great products come sunshine or snow, hail or heat wave." The popularity of children's ranges had been helped by the launch of the new range designed with adventurer Steve Backshall.

Business news

Balbirnie loss “exceptional” in award-winning year

February 9 2017

Balbirnie House Hotel in Fife fell into the red in the year it won a series of major awards and was congratulated in the Scottish Parliament for its performance. The pre-tax loss of almost £250,000 in the 12 months to April 30, 2016 was due to “exceptional administrative expenses” of £325,000 according to the accounts published by Companies House. The document detailed the figure as “directors benefits in kind” related to the market value of a company property gifted to two directors during the year. Nicholas Russell, a director of the four-star country house establishment near Markinch, stressed the transaction involved a private residential property and was a one-off exceptional item. He added: “In the year in question Balbirnie House was re-valued upwards by an additional £400,000. “We’ve just had our busiest month in history for forward bookings for weddings with 24 couples booked in January. “In the last four years Balbirnie has provided the backdrop for 620 weddings.” Balbirnie House’s turnover and gross profit figures were £3.2 million and £2.5m respectively, very similar to the previous year. There were no exceptional administrative expenses in 2015 when the company made a pre-tax profit of £84,478, but the cost in 2016 produced a loss before tax of  £246,262. The accounts covered the year when Balbirnie House was voted Scotland’s wedding hotel of the year for the tenth time and was declared Scotland’s national hotel of the year. It also won  a global trade award in the shape of Haute Grandeur Europe’s best destination wedding retreat, and the achievements resulted in a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating everyone at Balbirnie House. He continued: “Over the last few years very significant re-investment into the fabric of the assets has been successfully enabled to a level which, in percentage terms, is well above the industry norms.” Mr Russell said the directors were very happy with the core trading results of the hotel. Core trade diaries continued to be excellent, and the directors were fully committed to ensuring the equilibrium and status quo were maintained. Mr Russell said risks in the hospitality sector including competition, Brexit costs, tourism VAT and the national living wage were acknowledged. Strategies to mitigate them included marketing, efficiencies and the hotel’s reputation.

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.