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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Coreena Ford

North East deals of the week: key contracts, investments and acquisitions

North East holiday park operator Parkdean Resorts announced a finance deal worth a reported £600m.

Onex Corporation, the Canadian owners of the Gosforth business, ploughed the extra equity into the firm, and Parkdean has agreed a refinancing of its senior debt with funds managed by Ares Management’s European Direct Lending. The deal comes 10 months after the firm’s owners shelved plans for a potential £1.6bn sale of the staycation specialist, amid concerns for the UK economy.

The holiday park operator – which employs around 750 people at its Gosforth head office and operates parks in the region including Church Point at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Cresswell Towers at Druridge Bay, Sandy Bay in Ashington, Crimdon Dene near Hartlepool, and Whitley Bay– ended talks with potential new owners nine months after launching a sale process, hoping to cash in on the post-pandemic boom in UK staycations.

Read more: People on the move: key North East appointments and promotions

Steve Richards, chief executive officer, said: “We’re pleased to announce Parkdean Resorts’ successful refinancing, and are grateful for the long-term support we have received from our shareholder Onex and lender Ares, which is testament to the strength of our business and the broader outlook for the UK holiday park sector. The business performance is resilient, reflecting our good value self-catering proposition, and we look forward with confidence to a busy summer season, and the acceleration of our growth plans.”

North East Screen trainee Katie Jenkins (North East Screen)

North East Screen joined forces with Screen Yorkshire, Liverpool Film Office and Screen Manchester to form Screen Alliance North, a BFI skills cluster which has collectively been awarded BFI National Lottery Funding of £2.3m to make the sector more accessible and representative.

The BFI has announced an initial roll out of £8.1m to its partners across the UK, to support the screen production workforce through skills clusters, helping organisations to work collaboratively with local industry, education and training providers to develop pathways to long-term employment in film and TV production.

As Screen Alliance North, the four Northern screen agencies will support each other and leverage additional local funding, to maximise the impact of the £2.3m funding awarded following a BFI skills review. The Alliance is one of six clusters across the UK who have received funding for three years.

Alison Gwynn, chief executive at North East Screen said: “We believe in a screen sector where access to opportunity is the norm and outdated preconceptions are banished. Whatever your background or wherever you live, we see a future for those with the ambition of working in the sector.”

The NunaBio team at Newcastle University - the company has received £1.9m in seed funding (NunaBio)

A Newcastle University spinout producing synthetic DNA for biochemical research announced it has raised £1.9m in seed funding to further its work.

NunaBio, which is based at the Newcastle Helix science and business park, has secured the funds from the North East Innovation Fund, Pioneer Group, Ascension Life Fund and Martlet Capital. The company was founded in April 2021 to develop a novel method of DNA synthesis which enables the speedy and cost-effective production of oligonucleotides – pieces of DNA that can bind to specific molecules – at scale.

NunaBio’s technology can be used in many areas of life sciences, including gene therapy, T cell engineering, diagnostics and targeted biomarker panels. Proceeds will be used to expand the company’s infrastructure to scale-up its existing offering, and to accelerate research and development.

As part of the investment, NunaBio will also join Pioneer Group’s Launch Venture Building programme, where it will receive support from leaders in the field for starting up, scaling and raising investment, as well as commercialisation support for 12 months.

(L-R): Michael Dickens of Maven, Peter Rippingale of Business Durham, Paul Griffiths of The Storage Place and Michael Vassallo of Maven. (The Storage Place/Maven)

A Tyneside warehouse operator is poised to create 40 new jobs on the back of a six-figure investment package.

The Storage Place Ltd (TSP) secured £400,000 in a funding round co-led by Maven Capital Partners, The Finance Durham Fund, established by Durham County Council, and overseen by Business Durham, and the North East Development Capital Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund. Both funds are managed by Maven and the deal includes £200,000 from each fund, which will trigger expansion of the business in County Durham, opening a new facility to more than double its capacity and create the new jobs.

Gateshead based TSP operates warehouses across the UK and has over 500,000 sq ft of UK fulfilment space. The business was originally founded as a warehousing and distribution firm for heavy industry and automotives in 2002, but the rise of e-commerce has seen it shift its focus to e-retail order fulfilment. The business, which is run by Michael Meredith, executive chair, and Paul Griffiths, managing director, specialises in services from the management of stock from suppliers, through to order processing and delivering to customers. It also offers software integration, which connects with a range of channels and services, such as Amazon, Magento and Shopify, and works with an extensive network of carriers including Royal Mail, DPD, Parcel Force, DX, DHL, TNT, Palletline and Evri.

Alasdair MacDonald, CEO of Tekmar. (Tekmar Group)

Offshore cabling group Tekmar hailed a "big step forward" having secured £22m investment to support its future.

Last month the North East firm indicated it would raise up to £25m through a shares subscription, placing and retail offer, and £18m of convertible loan notes - including commitments from US-based private equity firm SCF Partners. The move follows the launch of a 'strategic review' last year in which Tekmar appointed North East advisors Bamburgh Capital and effectively put itself up for sale.

The £30m turnover business - which specialises in systems that protect the subsea cables that connect offshore wind farms - has been loss making in recent years owing to challenges posed by the pandemic, cost pressures and inefficiencies driven by lower volumes, supply chain and logistics challenges.

Tekmar CEO Alasdair MacDonald said the investment would mainly be used to support growth but that a small proportion - previously indicated as £5m - would be used as working capital. He said: "We've got a clear line of sight as to growth and what we want to invest in. We want to grow and create jobs around the North East where we're predominantly based. This is a great news story for the North East."

Richard Brown, CEO of Melius (Melius)

A Newcastle cybersecurity business whose technology helps SMEs detect vulnerabilities in their IT systems raised a further £500,000 to boost its growth plans.

Melius Cyber has raised the money from the North East Venture Fund, which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Mercia. The funding follows an earlier £350,000 investment from the Venture Fund last June, which helped the company develop its platform and build in scalability.

Melius Cyber is a spin-off from IT business Melius Group, which has attracted a number of key clients including financial services and public sector bodies. It has strengthened its management team with a number of key appointments including that of Matt Little, an experienced technology leader, who has joined as chair. Now it is planning to use the latest investment to further enhance its platform and roll it out to a wider client base.

Melius’s CyberSafe platform automates the process of vulnerability scanning and penetration testing, in which cyber experts simulate attacks on computer systems. The platform has been developed specifically for SMEs and aligns to the Government’s Cyber Essentials scheme to help companies secure accreditation by showing they have monitoring in place.

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