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Review of the Westcountry's Business Year 2013

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 30, 2013

By Catherine Barnes

Flybe

2013 has brought changes for Exeter airline Flybe

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JANUARY

Exeter-based Flybe unveiled a turnaround plan to safeguard its future – at a cost of 95 Westcountry jobs, as the airline launched a £35 million cost-savings exercise to get out of the red. Analysts expected Flybe to report a pre-tax loss of £17 million for the 12 months to March 31.

More than 50 jobs were announced in the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company’s biggest ever recruitment drive, as part of a multi-million-pound investment in its operations.

Renewables business Ainscough Wind Energy Services was the latest business to move onto the Aerohub Enterprise Zone at Newquay Cornwall Airport.

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Westcountry independent jeweller John Baldwin closed one of his Plymouth stores after 38 years, saying the city’s retail centre was in terminal decline.

FEBRUARY

North Devon manufacturer Atlas Packaging secured a £3.75 million bank finance package, just weeks after investing almost £2.5 million in new machinery at its plant.

A South West based consortium including A&P Falmouth and Keynvor MorLift secured a £1.5 million grant to develop a sea-going barge that will help make the deployment of green energy installations easier and more cost-effective.

MARCH

Axminster Carpets entered administration with the loss of 300 jobs. The business and 100 jobs were saved in April in a rescue buyout by a consortium, with Stephen Boyd appointed as chairman of the manufacturing business.

Yeovil-based AgustaWestland bagged a contract worth around £230 million to build 11 search and rescue helicopters.

The BBC announced it was set to stay at its studio base in Plymouth, seven years after a proposed move to a new purpose-built multi-media centre on the city’s waterfront was first heralded.

Two South Devon firms announced that they were set to reduce their headcounts by a combined total of more than 120.

Around 90 jobs were under threat at Torquay-based Creative Foods, which planned to outsource its operations to Taunton. Newton Abbot-based engineering firm Centrax announced it was to axe up to 36 positions, just four months after laying off 20 temporary posts.

Staff at the Exeter John Lewis store celebrated news that they were to receive a 17% employee bonus – the equivalent of nearly nine weeks of pay.

Newquay’s Watergate Bay Hotel secured a seven-figure funding package to undertake a £3.6 million final phase of its development.

Newlyn-based W Stevenson and Sons launched a “fish-by-post” delivery service, to make its catch available nationwide.

APRIL

Flybe warned annual losses would be deeper than feared, with higher fuel costs weighing on its bottom line.

Ground-breaking Holsworthy Diobas fish rearing business said there was no future for it in the Westcountry, despite securing a £100 million contract in Vietnam.

Westcountry winners of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise were announced and included Exeter-based Simpleware; Falmouth-based Seasalt; Dawlish-based Whetman Pinks; Plymouth-based Atlantic Inertial Systems trading as UTC Aerospace Systems; Highbridge-based Jo Bird & Co and Hayle-based Rigibore.

MAY

Outline planning permission was granted for the White Rock Business Park development in Paignton which will create 30,000 sq m of employment space and up to 1,200 jobs.

Exeter-based Crowdcube raised £1.5 million in just days from investors via its own equity-funding platform, to support its plans for overseas expansion.

Coventry-based Patriot Aerospace acquired Newquay airport-based British International Helicopter Services, saying it had plans to expand the Westcountry business’s operations.

Former Milk Link chief executive and group finance director Neil Kennedy and Tim Smiddy announced they were moving ahead with their acquisition of the Crediton Dairy.

Falmouth-based clothing label and retailer Seasalt discontinued its children’s wear range, saying rising costs had led to poor returns from the line.

JUNE

Wolf Minerals announced it could now formally begin its £130 million development project to re-open the Hemerdon tungsten and tin mine near Plymouth, after finalising finance deals to back the project.

Sir Peter Rigby, who owns Patriot Aerospace, bought 100% of Exeter International Airport from Balfour Beatty and a consortium of European investors.

Camborne-based Enact Energy, which was chosen by the Government to pioneer its multi-billion pound Green Deal scheme, fell into administration. It blamed underlying economic difficulties and the transition from one government incentive scheme to another

The University of Exeter was granted planning permission for a £50 million new research centre which aims to bring together academics from a range of different disciplines in a new approach to biosciences.

Family cider-maker Healey’s announced its acquisition of a second farm near its Truro base, as the initial stage of long-term growth plans for the business.

Businesses in the Newham area of Truro voted “yes” to establish a second Business Improvement District in the city. As a mixed office and industrial zone, the Newham BID is the first of a kind for Cornwall.

JULY

EasyJet’s former chief commercial officer Saad Hammad was appointed as Flybe chief executive and took the reins of the loss-making regional airline’s turnaround drive.

Dairy Crest announced it is set to invest £40 million in its Davidstow creamery, in a move which will create new jobs and see it tap into the booming baby food market.

Sainsbury’s announced it had put plans for a 500,000sq ft depot near Exeter Airport on hold indefinitely. The distribution site would have created more than 400 jobs.

Exeter-based pub company Heavitree Brewery reported a rise in profits despite challenging trading conditions.

Global technology business Blur Group began recruiting its first regional employees ahead of establishing a new research and development base in Exeter.

AUGUST

Penzance-based EGS Energy expressed that hopes that shale-gas fracking protests might result in a spotlight being shone on the Westcountry’s green alternative – geothermal energy. Later in the year, however, it announced funding difficulties would delay a proposed £35 million “hot rocks” scheme for Cornwall.

Flybe shareholders approved the proposed £20 million sale of the airline’s slots at Gatwick Airport to easyJet.

East Devon-based mechanical engineering company Supacat delivered the first of five pioneering Launch and Recovery Systems to the RLNI.

Newton Abbot photographic firm Harrier announced it is set to create 300 jobs and become one of the biggest employees in South Devon, bringing its workforce to more than 450.

Yeovil-based Leather manufacturer Pittards said that a major restructuring of the business which saw its 2012 profits slide, had begun to “yield benefits” in its first six months of trading.

SEPTEMBER

Redruth-based filtration firm Pall UK confirmed a large part of its hydraulics manufacturing operation will shift to a new factory in Slovakia in 2014, with the loss of an estimated 170 jobs.

Three Flybe executives left their positions with the Exeter-based airline just weeks after stepping down from its board. The move saw the departure of Andrew Strong, managing director of Flybe UK, Mike Rutter, managing director of Flybe Outsourcing Solutions, and Mark Chown, director of corporate strategy.

The value of exports across the South West increased to £13.26 billion in a 12-month period which saw overall UK overseas trade figures fall.

Yeovil-based Haynes Publishing Group acquired a US-based rival, motorcycle manual publisher Clymer, in a deal worth £5.85 million. Clymer is behind DIY repair and maintenance guides for scores of vehicles – including classic Harley-Davidsons.

OCTOBER

Luton-based budget carrier easyJet said that there was “insufficient demand” to continue with flights between Newquay and Gatwick when it takes over the landing slots from Exeter-based Flybe on March 30.

Humphrey Hale stood down as the MD of Wolf Minerals, which is behind £130 million plans to reopen tungsten and tin mine at Hemerdon, in the South Hams.

He has been replaced by former Grange Resources managing director Russell Clark.

Plymouth media firm Twofour announced its merger with Welsh production business Boom Pictures, in a deal which it said would create “a major new nations and regions player”.

NOVEMBER

Rock legend Bruce Dickinson was appointed non-executive chairman of Branscombe-based Aeris Aviation, which secured the European distribution rights to the $3 million Eclipse 550 jet, launched in Las Vegas in October.

Ground source heat pump manufacturer Kensa was named Business of the Year at the Western Morning News business awards held at the Holiday Inn in Plymouth. Fifteen awards were handed out on the night, with Rob Harris, founder of surfwear brand Ann’s Cottage, winning the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Shops, pubs and restaurants are set to benefit from a £1,000 rates discount announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the Autumn Statement but critics said the Chancellor had not gone far enough to alleviate the levy from continuing to burden businesses.

DECEMBER

A global asset management business Aviva Investors revealed a £7 million capital investment plan to revamp an Exeter’s Guildhall Shopping Centre, as the city continues on its drive to become a ‘top flight’ retail destination.

Flybe announced it will keep its Newquay-to-Gatwick service going until October 2014. A deal has been struck with Newquay Airport, that could give Cornwall Council time to arrange a public subsidy that would guarantee the route longer-term.

Bude manufacturer Zoeftig, which makes seating for public waiting areas, signed a £1.4 million contract to supply Brazil’s key airport terminals. The major deal is the first step into the South American market for Zoeftig and comes as the forthcoming World Cup and Olympics host nation invests a massive $17 billion into its key transport hubs.

AgustaWestland officially sealed a £1 billion contract to supply 16 search and rescue helicopters plus support and training to the Norwegian government. The AW101 aircraft will be assembled at Agusta Westland’s Yeovil facility, helping safeguard 3,000 jobs at its plant and in its supply chain.

World-renowned carpet business Axminster entered into administration but was rescued by a consortium led by chairman Stephen Boyd

Above: Flybe stalwart Jim French (right) left the business, while Saad Hammad (left) took the reins as chief executive and, right, Coventry-based entrepreneur Peter Rigby, right, bought Exeter International Airport

Wolf Minerals moved closer to resuming tungsten mining near Plymouth as its £130million scheme continued to take shape

Kensa Engineering was named Business of the Year at the WMN’s 2013 Business Awards

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