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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

Report says UK video games industry set for further growth in 2017

January 4 2017

Trade organisation TIGA believes the UK video games industry will increase investment and expand employment in 2017. The network for games developers and digital publishers made the comments in its Business Opinion Survey for 2017, based on 50 games businesses developing games across mobile/tablet, VR, PC and console. The video games industry is a key part of Dundee’s digital sector which is a significant contributor to the area’s economy. The Tech Nation report for 2016 estimated the input of gaming, app and hardware development in Dundee at £61.4 million a year supporting 3,300 jobs. In the latest TIGA survey, 88% of respondents said they planned to grow their workforces over the next year - up from 72% a year ago. The proportion who said the outlook for investment in their business in R&D, training, new games development was up at 50%, with 30% saying their outlook was unchanged In performance, 72% said their company was performing well and just 6% reporting bad performance. Among other findings, 64% forecast that their company’s net profits over the next 12 months would be up, 70% anticipated their costs are likely to increase and 40% expected their prices for customers will rise. Limited access to finance was restricting the growth of 34% of respondents, and a further 34% cited discoverability as the biggest obstacle. Skills shortages and gaps were a concern of 16%. Dr Richard Wilson, chief executive of TIGA, said: “The UK video games development and digital publishing sector is set to grow in 2017 driven by three factors. “The consumer market for games is big, broad and burgeoning. The UK is the sixth largest market for games in the world and 31.6 million people in the UK play games. “Secondly, the spread of mobile and tablet devices, the new console generation, the popularity of PC games and the advent of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are prompting investment in games.” Thirdly Video Games Tax Relief, which TIGA played a decisive role in achieving, was “fanning the flame of growth.” Relief is predicted to create 2,800 development jobs and £331m in investment up to 2020. “Games Tax Relief effectively reduces the cost and risk of games development and it incentivises investment and job creation,” he added.

Business news

Praise for James Hutton progress

December 20 2016

James Hutton Ltd, the commercial subsidiary of the James Hutton Institute, made a pre-tax profit of £170,000 in its first full year of trading. The Invergowrie-based company was formed by the merger of Macaulay Scientific Consulting and Mylnefield Research Services’ trading arms. It translates the scientific research of the James Hutton Institute, with sites in Aberdeen and Dundee, into commercial services, licences and products for agricultural and environmental sectors and also in exploration and production for the oil and gas sector. The James Hutton Institute, which has charitable status, is a globally recognised research organisation for the sustainable use of land and natural resources. It was formed by bringing together the Macaulay Research Institute and the Scottish Crop Research Institute. With a staff of 34, James Hutton Ltd’s turnover in the year to March 2016 was £4.92 million, £1m (25.2%) up on the previous year. Profit before tax soared from £12,000 to £170,000, and the gift aid back to the institute was £849,000. The company’s business units are Plant Breeding Services and Variety Rights; Analytical Services and Contract Research and Consultancy. Income from the first was £1.329m with royalties slightly down due to the expiry of rights for Loch Ness blackberries and a small decrease in income from blackcurrants, brassicas and strawberries. Royalities’ income from potatoes rose, and the company said it continued to deliver on several long-term potato and soft fruit breeding programmes. Analytical Services’ income was £1.767m, with the significant global downturn in the oil and gas industry having an adverse effect. Contract Research and Consultancy’s income of £1.8m resulted from a year of 10 new innovative UK projects. Managing director Fraser Black said the board was pleased with the progress of the newly merged business and its closer integration into the activities of the James Hutton Institute. He added: “Significant investments are being made in business development, marketing and new business discovery to fulfil the five year business plan and grow income.

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

Courier award winner launches latest phase of UK Government grant scheme for new video games

November 1 2016

The Dundee-based UK Games Fund - winner of deal of the year prize at The Courier Business Awards - has launched the latest government grant scheme to find the nation's next big video game. UK games developers have a chance of securing up to £25,000 in the programme that supports video games projects and helps to develop new talent. The UK's video games sector plays a vital role in the country's thriving creative industries which contribute £84 billion to the economy. The launch in London, meant it was straight back to business for UK Games Fund head Paul Durrant, who said: "This is a great start to the week following our success at The Courier Business Awards. "It's hard to believe that we're just one year to the day from starting up. Saturday's event was a great reminder for us that whilst we serve the whole UK there's some fabulous talent in all sectors of business right on our doorstep." The fund, now in its third round, has helped 50 developers from across the UK transform their gaming dreams into reality thanks to more than £1.3m in UK Government grants. Minister for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock MP said: “The UK is a world leader when it comes to making video games, and we’re determined to make sure this continues long into the future. “Our UK Games Fund has already helped many young games companies turn prototypes into a reality. Together with the Government’s video games tax reliefs this shows how we’re supporting this dynamic sector to attract further investment and new talent.” The Minister was visiting the Sensible Object studios at Somerset House, to see how their developers are bringing their designs to the market. Sensible Object won funding from the first round to bring their game "Beasts of Balance" to life. Paul Durrant added: "We're really excited about this funding round, given the high demand and the quality of projects we've seen so far. "It's also good to see the success stories arising from our support. Sensible Object's rapid progress shows just what we can achieve when we assist the UK's top games development talent." He started the UK Games Fund by setting up a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) UK Games Talent & Finance. Through it £4 million was won from the UK Government for a four-year project to support the UK games development industry, an achievement that earned the CIC The Courier's deal of the year accolade.

Business news

Tax relief vital for games industry after Brexit

July 19 2016

Tax breaks have been highlighted as a key stage on the road map for the UK video games industry’s survival outside the European Union. TIGA, the trade association for the video games industry, also recommended access to finance and talent as well as a favourable trade deal with the EU in its ten-point plan for the industry to prosper after Brexit. The digital sector is significant in the Dundee area’s economy, with the recent Tech Nation report putting the contribution of gaming, app and hardware development at £61.4 million a year and supporting 3,300 jobs. There is concern for the future of the UK industry after the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Just before the vote on June 23, leading games developer Gordon Ross said it would be “madness” for the industry to cut itself off from an EU fund which hands out €8 million (£6.67m) a year for game development. But Ross Thomson, the Conservative MSP and a Scottish Vote Leave campaigner, said they are “committed to replicating all funding bodies receive from the EU up until at least 2020”. TIGA’s report Brexit: Priorities for the UK Video Games Industry, sets out a policy agenda for government and parliament to consider as the UK begins the process of leaving the EU. Dr Richard Wilson, TIGA’s chief executive, said: “We must all strive to ensure that the UK survives, revives and thrives outside of the EU. “The high technology and creative industries, including the video games sector, can power ahead in a post-BREXIT world – provided that Government takes the right policy decisions and businesses rise to the challenge. “TIGA’s Report sets out a practical, pragmatic and positive agenda for ensuring the UK games sector is a leading player in an industry that is predicted to be worth almost $100 billion by 2018.” He said a favourable UK tax environment with an enhanced Games Tax Relief and R&D Tax Credit, increased availability of finance and improved access to talent would give the the UK video games industry “everything to play for.” It already contributes £1.1 billion to UK GDP, and TIGA said this will increase with the right policy environment in place. TIGA said the UK Government should consider reducing the rate of corporation tax to 17% in 2017. The trade body also wants protection for EU workers already in the UK, and a trade deal with the EU that avoids quotas, tariffs and other trade barriers.  

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 comment

Shoppers want to click, not call

November 9 2016

Marks & Spencer’s decision to close 60 clothing and home stores in an overhaul 100 locations is sad but inevitable. Underlying pre-tax profits plunging by 18.6% to £231.3 million in the last six months and bottom-line profits crashing 88.4% to £25.1m signal a clear downward spiral that no business can ignore. Staff in M&S clothing and home stores up and down the UK will be anxiously waiting to know if the axe will swing in their direction - and the many in Courier Country will not be immune from these concerns. But shopping has changed and shops must change to survive. The internet has arrived and online shopping is on the rise. More and more people are choosing to click rather then call and it’s not hard to see why. Take me for example. I am tall and need extra-long trousers. I like M&S trousers and would happily buy them off the rack in a shop but have found that impossible. M&S High Street stores don’t stock them, or stock so few of them that the small number they put on their rails must be snapped up by shoppers who are as quick off the mark as Usain Bolt (maybe it is him - he’s even taller than me!). M&S no doubt thought - or did so until now - it was more viable for them to stock mainly regular sizes in their stores. But with M&S online it’s a different story. There’s a plentiful range of trousers in extra-long and extra, extra-long sizes. I can pay extra to have them delivered to my home or they can be delivered at no extra cost to a local M&S store where I can collect them. So I buy them online and what’s not to like about that? It seems many shoppers feel the same way, hence the company’s decision to reduce and reshape its entire bricks and mortar footprint throughout the UK and Europe. Shops cost money to run, and if that money is not coming back in through the tills then the shops will go out of business. It’s better to stop a tap from dripping before it floods the whole house, and that is what M&S is doing. Like any commercial enterprise, shops have to be alert to respond to market changes. There are plenty of examples of those that haven’t moved, or moved enough, to meet changing customer trends. High Street rival BhS is an obvious one, although it had other major problems. Look at how the growth of Aldi and Lidl has made the UK’s Big Four supermarkets change their game. The German traders saw that shoppers would prefer to buy the quantities they needed at lower prices rather than so-called bargain multi-packs that they would struggle to get through within their sell-by periods. There will always be trips to the shops whether in High Streets or retail parks. But the shops must become smarter to respond to customer demands and provide an attractive offer that shoppers won’t find elsewhere.

Business news

Exclusive: Marr companies across Dundee and Angus plunged into administration

February 9 2017

Major pub businesses of Dundee businessman Jimmy Marr have gone into administration. A total of 16 licensed and other premises are involved, including the Taybridge Bar on Perth Road, one of the city’s best-known hostelries. The Park House Hotel on Coupar Angus Road and the Playwright in South Tay Street are also affected. Mr Marr blamed the setback on the vigorous debt recovery action of Luxembourg-based lender Clipper Holding, which put his two firms into administration. He said that the businesses concerned are continuing to trade and no employees have lost their jobs. The two companies are Park Investments (Dundee) Ltd and Park Properties (Dundee) Ltd, and their principal directors were Jimmy Marr and his wife Karen. Park Investments was set up as an investment vehicle to acquire and own a number of restaurants, bars and hotels. Park Properties is a similar company that owns a nursery and a yoga studio. Most of the 16 premises affected are in Dundee, with one each in Arbroath, Forfar and Brechin. Lyn Leon Vardy, Toby Scott Underwood and Graham Douglas Frost of PwC were appointed as administrators of the two companies. Lyn Leon Vardy said: “Following the administration appointment, our Scottish restructuring team have met with the director of the companies and have notified all 16 tenants of our appointment. “The tenants continue to operate from the units they occupy. We are working with both the director and the tenants to assess the optimal realisation strategy for the properties. Parties who may be interested in purchasing these properties should contact our office on 0113 289 4000.” Last night Mr Marr said the two companies were funded for a number of years by Allied Irish Banks (AIB). It was severely affected by the banking crisis and was restructured by the Irish state. He explained that in December 2015 Clipper Holding 11 sarl., a Luxembourg-based company, bought from AIB £650 million of UK loans of which 200 related to businesses in Scotland, including the two Park companies. “This action (the administration) was taken by Clipper Holding after the parties could not agree to the new loan terms being imposed by Clipper. “Park Investments is a company that owns a number of public houses which are successfully run by tenant publicans. “These establishments will not be affected by the administration order and will continue to trade.” He added that none of the other businesses he runs in Dundee is affected by the action against the Park companies. From rags to riches: the family that brought glamour to Dens Jimmy Marr, 56, grew up in Fintry, Dundee, and first worked as a painter and decorator. He saw a better future for himself in the licensed trade and made the Hawthorn Bar in Hilltown his first foray. After building it into a thriving hostelry, he took over more businesses and eventually built an empire of pubs, nightclubs and hotels. They had a combined turnover running to millions of pounds and employed several hundred people. He turned his hand to property development, with his firm delivering some prestige projects including the luxury Beach Crescent flats in Broughty Ferry. Jimmy, with brother Peter, 65, came to national prominence when they took over their beloved Dundee FC, with Jimmy serving as chairman and Peter as chief executive. They presided over one of the boldest ventures in the Scottish game when they brought former top Italian footballers Ivano and Dario Bonetti to Dens Park as a management team. The Marrs made funds available to bring in players from Italy and Argentina, notably Fabrizio Ravanelli and Claudio Caniggia, to hoist Dundee to the upper reaches of the domestic game. Sadly, the plan was scuppered by the collapse of the transfer market. Dundee was plunged into administration with debts of £23 million, the foreign talent departed cheaply and the team was relegated. A fellow Dundee businessman said of Jimmy’s latest reverse: “It is a tragedy for him. “He is a very successful businessman who has employed hundreds of people and given them livelihoods.” He added: “Jimmy is a good lad and I’m sure he will come through this and be a success again, running good pubs and hotels and employing many people.”   The two Jimmy Marr companies appear to be the latest casualties of the vigorous debt recovery action taken by Luxembourg-based Clipper Holding. Clipper bought the debts of Allied Irish Banks (AIB), which held floating charges over the properties of Park Investments and Park Properties in Dundee. AIB was taken under Irish state control after the financial crash of 2009 and had to urgently sell assets to repay the £18 billion pumped into it to keep it afloat. Clipper has been taking strenuous action to recover its outlay and last year put another Scottish pub and hotel chain, Challenger Inns, into administration. It previously made similar moves in connection with the Lindores companies of Dundee property developer Tim Allan. Park Investments and Park Properties were both solvent according to their most recent annual accounts. Park Investments made a loss in the year to October 2015 but had net assets of more than £450,000. The bank loan for the business was covered by a fixed charge over the land and buildings as well as the floating charge. There were also significant personal guarantees for the bank borrowing at that time from Karen Marr for £1 million and Jimmy Marr for £1.2m. Park Properties made a profit in the year to February 2016 and had net assets of around £215,000. There was plenty of evidence to suggest the two firms were very much going concerns and viable, but their Luxembourg lenders had a different view.