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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

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

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

Accountants win games firm clients

April 22 2016

Dundee-based accountancy firm Henderson Loggie has won a clutch of new business contracts from creative and interactive media companies. The move contributes to the firm’s plans to grow fee income by 40% in the sector in the next twelve months. New clients include Ninja Kiwi, creators of Bloons, Bloons Tower Defense and SAS Zombie Assault games; Bristol-based Twice Circled, creators of Big Pharma; and indie games studio Team Junkfish, creators of Monstrum, founded by Abertay University graduates Jaime Cross, Simon Doyle and Adam Dart. With 25 years’ experience advising companies in Scotland’s flourishing games sector, the specialist team at Henderson Loggie also acts for the UK Games Talent and Finance Community Interest Company. The organisation manages the £4 million video games fund launched last year by UK government to boost the UK’s growing games industry. Henderson Loggie partner and creative media specialist Steve Cartwright said: “We have grown up with the sector and have built up such wealth of knowledge that we are fortunate to be recognised as leaders in the creative industries field. “We have high ambitions for growth, and are delighted to welcome our new clients on board. “Constant change is the norm in their industry where one of the major challenges is monetising products.” He said Henderson Loggie, with offices in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and recently named a finalist in the Tax and Accountancy category at the prestigious TIGA games industry awards, have strengths in helping companies to grow sustainably.

Business news

‘Iconic’ McEwens of Perth brand put up for sale

May 2 2016

The McEwens of Perth brand is being offered for sale to raise cash to meet the debts of the historic retailer which has gone into administration. Bids have been invited for the intellectual property (IP) assets of the retail and lifestyle business in St John Street. Founded in 1868, McEwens went into administration at the end of March with owners the Bullough family blaming the credit crunch and the rise of the internet and out-of-town shopping. KPMG were brought in as administrators and the store's 110 staff in Perth, Ballater and Oban faced redundancy. The administrators are now trying to sell the brand behind Scotland’s largest independent fashion chain, which has a heritage of high quality, made to measure, fashion which spans three centuries. Commercial IP consultants Metis Partners say the brand has significant cachet value as the name to trust for high end and bespoke fashion in Scotland. They are offering a package of assets including trade mark rights protecting the heritage McEwens of Perth brand, as well as rights over Boutique McEwens, and a selection of branded websites, domain names and databases, from the company’s e-commerce side. This is a unique opportunity to purchase an iconic Scottish retail, lifestyle and fashion brand with considerable heritage value. They say another feature of this IP asset sale is the "overwhelmingly positive customer sentiment towards the McEwens of Perth brand." Nat Baldwin, head of corporate recovery at Metis Partners, said: “This is a unique opportunity to purchase an iconic Scottish retail, lifestyle and fashion brand with considerable heritage value. "These opportunities just don’t come around that often. McEwens of Perth has had a trusted reputation, and this is an excellent opportunity for a purchaser to ensure that the brand continues in business. "Metis Partners are pleased to offer this portfolio of attractive IP assets, and the goodwill and national reputation for luxury and quality attached to it.” The deadline for offers for the sale of what Metis say will be of significant interest to parties operating in the high street retail, department store, online retail, lifestyle, fashion and homeware sectors is May 17. The Perth store is still opening for reduced hours under a closing down sale.

Business news

McEwens debts revealed at almost £4.3 million

May 17 2016

McEwens of Perth collapsed with debts of almost £4.3 million. Owned by the daughter and son-in-law of the last Earl of Mansfield, McEwens announced at the end of March that it was going into administration. Company chairman John Bullough and his wife Lady Georgina blamed the post-2008 credit crunch and the rise of the internet and out-of-town shopping for the demise. Sited in St John Street and with branches in Oban and Ballater, McEwens of Perth was founded in 1868 and prided itself is being Scotland's largest independent fashion chain. KPMG were brought in as administrators and the store’s 110 staff faced redundancy. In their statement of affairs notice submitted to Companies' House in terms of the Insolvency Act, Gerard Friar and Blair Nimmo have estimated the company' total assets available for preferential creditors, floating charge holders and unsecured creditors at £517,000. In liabilities, claims from preferential creditors in terms of employee debts from accrued holiday pay and arrears of wages amount to £87,000. The Royal Bank of Scotland holds floating charges of £1.7 million and traders as unsecured creditors have lodged claims amounting to £2.874m. The largest has been lodged by tailors Brook Taverner which lodged a claim of £106,781. The administrators estimated a total deficiency of £4,276,303. KPMG have made efforts to raise money to help meet the debts through the sale of McEwens' intellectual property assets. The closing date for offers is May 17. Glasgow-based Metis Partners offered a package including trade mark rights protecting the heritage McEwens of Perth brand, as well as rights over Boutique McEwens, and a selection of branded websites, domain names and databases from the company’s e-commerce side. They said the McEwens brand has significant cachet value as the name to trust for high end and bespoke fashion in Scotland.

Business news

Dundee-linked science company on growth curve

September 19 2016

A diagnostic test production company with a branch in Dundee grew its customer base last year. BBI Solutions OEM Ltd operates eight laboratories around the world including the unit at Dundee's Medipark. In the year to December 2015, the parent group raised its turnover by 1.6% to £28.8 million. Pre-tax profit was down by 11% at £2.64m after accounting for an increase of more than £1m in the cost of sales. With its headquarters in Wales, and almost 300 employees in units in the UK, Hong Kong, South Africa and the United States, BBI produces diagnostic tests for a range of applications in humans and animals and also in agriculture. The company has served the global diagnostics industry for over 50 years as a developer and manufacturer of raw materials and finished test platforms for the in-vitro diagnostics market. It has grown from a small specialist business to a global operation, offering end-to-end contract development and rapid lean manufacturing services, and is pursuing further growth. It uses reagents to produce diagnostic test kits for healthcare, environmental, agricultural and other industries. Earlier this month the Dundee BBI laboratory was praised for its work in helping to develop a simple blood test to tackle major livestock disease in Africa. Dundee University and the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) formed a partnership to develop a device to test for a cattle disease that is endemic in 40 African countries and accounts for up to a 50% loss in milk and meat production in the continent. The device, less than three inches long and similar in format to a pregnancy test, can identify within 30 minutes whether an animal is infected with the parasite Trypanosoma vivax, leading to the disease nagana, from a single drop of blood. Nagana affects huge swathes of sub-Saharan Africa and has spread to South America. With around 60 million cattle at risk from the disease, which causes muscle wasting and death, the socio-economic impacts are profound as they can affect the lives of millions of smallholder farmers and the economy. The research team at Dundee identified the components of Trypanosoma vivax that cattle make antibodies to, and developed a prototype diagnostic device in collaboration with Dr Steven Wall, product support manager at BBI Solutions OEM Limited. Professor Mike Ferguson, Regius Professor of Life Sciences at Dundee who led the research team, said he was proud of the relationship between the university and BBI Solutions. BBI director Lyn Rees said the company was continuing to investigate growth opportunities in new and existing locations, and introducing new product ranges.

Business news

McEwens’ unsecured creditors likely to lose £2.88m

May 30 2016

Unsecured creditors of McEwens of Perth are likely to have lost up to £2.875 million in the collapse of the department store company. Administrators KPMG have anticipated that that based on current estimates there will be insufficient funds to pay them a dividend. The unsecured creditors include the holders of gift and promotional vouchers as well as companies that traded with McEwens which lodged claims totalling £1.1m. They also include claims of more than £1.7m from the Bullough family, connected companies, McEwens’ pension funds, Highland Council and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for PAYE and VAT. McEwens collapsed with debts of almost £4.3 million, entering administration at the end of March with 110 staff facing redundancy. Company chairman John Bullough and his wife, Lady Georgina, the son-in-law and daughter of the last Earl of Mansfield, blamed the credit crunch and the rise of the internet and out-of-town shopping for the demise. Sited in St John Street and with branches in Oban and Ballater, McEwens was founded in 1868 and prided itself is being Scotland’s largest independent fashion chain. In their notice to creditors lodged with Companies House, KPMG anticipate the likeliest exit route from administration to be to be dissolution. Administrators Gerard Friar and Blair Nimmo said McEwens’ trading performance had deteriorated in 2015. Early this year KPMG were brought in to assist with a possible refinancing but additional funding could not be achieved. The administrators decided that continuing to trade on a reduced scale after administration would allow time to explore a sale of the McEwens business and assets as a going concern. “Unfortunately, it became clear that this would not be possible and we are now effecting an orderly wind-down of the company,” they stated. Sales were about £900,000 prior to deducting trading costs, and the administrators said sufficient funds will be recovered from the sale of the freehold property for a distribution to the secured creditor, the Royal Bank of Scotland which had a total debt of £3.44m. The administrators anticipated that employees who claimed wage arrears, holiday pay and some pension benefits, could be paid in full as preferential creditors, depending on the outcome of trading and the sale of McEwens non-property assets. They had submitted claims amounting to £97,000, but there will not be enough money to pay the unsecured creditors.

Business news

Scottish retail industry calls for Holyrood help

August 11 2016

Scotland's shopkeepers are calling on the Scottish Government to put competitiveness and productivity at the heart of its budget and spending review due next month. In a new paper - Open for Business: Growing a more productive and competitive Scottish economy - the Scottish Retail Consortium has highlighted the profound changes affecting the retail sector. Detailed policy recommendations across key areas are proposed including business rates, income tax, council tax, business taxation, apprenticeship levy, charges, regulation and infrastructure. It recommends that Scottish Ministers work with the industry to deliver a retail strategy which sets out a clear road-map for future tax and regulatory changes for the next decade. It also calls for consumer confidence to be bolstered by keeping a firm grip on personal tax rates, and a re-evaluation of plans for increases in personal taxation in 2017-18. A fundamental reform of business rates is another demand, and the SRC wants the £62.4 million annual Large  Business Rates Surcharge to be scrapped and to restore poundage rate parity with England. Ensuring firms that pay the Apprenticeship Levy directly benefit from it is also on the SRC's wish list, along with a call to shelve the mooted Scotland-only "bottle tax" which it says would push up prices for consumers. The SRC believes that with the devolution of further new powers, along with the uncertainty following the Brexit vote, there is an urgent need for the Scottish Government to support the retail sector and consumer confidence. The retail industry is Scotland’s largest private sector employer, providing 253,000 jobs. SRC director David Lonsdale said it shared the devolved administration’s aim of making Scotland the most competitive part of the UK to do business but believed that goal has yet to be achieved. "This is why we want to see a bold and ambitious Budget with Scottish Ministers using their powers to significantly improve the Scottish economy," he stated. He added: "Now is not the time to raise taxes on the vast majority of working Scots, which would of course impact on their discretionary spending."

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.