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

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Northumberland toilet roll manufacturer Essity is planning a £30m upgrade of its paper recycling processes.

The Essity base at Prudhoe Mill is keen to reduce its dependence on virgin wood fibre, which it uses to make products such as toilet rolls, having seen supplies of waste paper drop dramatically in recent years in the wake of technology advancements and offices switching to hybrid or homeworking.

Now the company is planning to replace its 50-year-old recycling plant with a new building believed to represent an investment of more than £30m. It will house the latest in recycling technology that will reduce energy costs and increase the company’s ability to make new products from recycled fibre.

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Programme manager Paul Oliver said: “The old Unifibres building has served us well – but both it and some of the equipment it houses have reached the end of their working lives.

“Essity is committed to a more sustainable future, and using recycled paper in our toilet rolls and paper towels has always been central to that. A high proportion of recycled paper in our products is also popular with our supermarket customers and environmentally-aware shoppers.”

North East offshore specialist Tekmar Group is toasting a £1.6m contract for projects in China. Newton Aycliffe based Tekmar – which has five operating companies providing technology and services for the global offshore energy markets – has announced a significant new contract award to supply 100 cable protection systems for use on multiple offshore wind farms in the Shangdong and Guangdong provinces of China.

The contract value is for £1.6m and the systems are expected to be delivered through 2022. The firm has announced a number of significant deals in recent months, including deals for an offshore wind farm project in Japan and a contract to provide an integrated engineering solution, including cable protection systems, for an offshore wind farm project in the US.

Alasdair MacDonald, CEO of Tekmar Group, said: “This award is a continuation of our recent contract momentum and builds on our success in the important Chinese market. The contract reflects the hard work of our team in Shanghai and strengthens the group’s presence in the region, supporting our global growth strategy.”

Tyneside party planning company PoptopUK is set for growth after securing a £150,000 investment.

Left to right: PoptopUK finance director Anita Clementson with Jane Siddle, senior investment executive at NEL Fund Managers. (Image: NEL Fund Managers.)

Cyber concierge business PoptopUK, based in Gateshead, was launched to provide guidance and prices for the hire of anything that might be required by party planners, and during the pandemic the business pivoted to offer virtual events. The company, which uses technology that it developed and built itself, was originally set up in Kyiv, Ukraine, before being brought to Newcastle seven years ago by CEO Eugene Shestopal and co-founder Ignat Thorovsky.

PoptopUK has a second office in Kyiv, with 37 people currently working across the two locations, and up to 10 new North East jobs are expected to be created as the business expands. It focuses on private events for up to 40 people, although it also works with a number of companies on smaller corporate events.

Now the platform is aiming to make an even bigger noise after securing the six-figure investment from the North East Growth Capital Fund Loan Fund.

Mr Shestopal said: ““What we want to do now is use the experience we’ve gathered on what people want to help our suppliers enhance what they offer and create experiences that will amaze our customers and keep them coming back for more.”

A Sunderland-based manufacturer of dental products has received funding to scale up its operation, creating jobs in the process.

Ashford Orthodontics, which is part of ALS Group, has used £200,000 from The Growth Fund as part of a £1.1m project to transform the firm’s handcraft production into an automated operation which has already landed it a major contract. Directors say the firm has the potential to become the biggest manufacturer of its type in Europe in the next three to five years – targeting a demand for dental products such as crowns, bridges and dentures which is being hampered by a shortage of skilled technicians in the UK.

Previously, Ashford’s specialism was making retainers for use after patients had braces removed. The firm recognised a demand for aligners which gradually change the position of a patient’s teeth and had been making some products via labour-intensive means, lacking the technology needed to scale up.

Rich Dodds, Ashford’s commercial director, explained: “We knew the market was there and that we could do the work by hand, but we knew that wasn’t sustainable for scaling up while keeping costs down and delivering a consistently high-quality product.

“We identified three different areas of our production process where we could introduce automation to scale our work. We bought more advanced thermoforming machinery, five 3D large scale printers and two automated aligner trimming machines.”

A manufacturer of resins used in the construction industryhas been acquired by New York-based private equity firm One Rock Capital Partners in an undisclosed deal.

Prefere Resins, including its £33m turnover Newton Aycliffe-based business, was sold by UK private equity owners Silverfleet Capital. The completed deal comes just three years after Prefere acquired the melamines and paraform business INEOS Enterprises.

The business makes adhesive resins used in engineered wood and insulation products, as well as other industrial applications. It runs a number of manufacturing, sales and research and development sites across Europe, including its North East factory.

Michael T. Koike, partner at One Rock, said: “Prefere’s dedication to product innovation and commitment to its customers underscore its position as a market leader across the adhesive resins industry. We are excited to continue to partner with management as we work to advance and promote the company’s sustainability initiatives in an effort to further maximize its potential.”