North West business briefs: R-Group; Ecogee; Together; AJ Bell; Faith in Nature |

2022-05-19 09:49:13 By : Mr. Allen Seng

R-Group of Companies, the property arm of Blackpool-based The Rigby Organisation, has secured a new £3.5m finance package with the support of specialist business advisory firm FRP.

The North West property manager, which operates a portfolio of property interests across Preston and the Fylde coast, has refinanced with the support of specialist lender HS Credit. The Stockport-based funder is the UK subsidiary of Malaysia’s Hap Seng Group and brings significant property experience to the relationship.

The long term financing will enable Rigby to invest in its portfolio of property assets, including the site of the former Bonds ice cream parlour at Elswick, which is to be developed into a small residential development, as well as other commercial, agricultural and leisure properties.

The deal was led by the Manchester debt advisory team at FRP, and is the second transaction the team has supported Rigby on in less than four months. In September, FRP advised Rigby Commercial on securing a £5.6m finance package from HS credit, having supported the property manager in securing HS Credit as a long term funding partner.

Tom Flack, group finance director at Rigby, said: “We initially sought new backing just prior to the onset of COVID-19 in the UK, and our long term relationship with HS Credit will allow us to invest in our portfolio of commercial, agricultural and leisure property assets, as they target future growth and trade out of the pandemic.”

Andy Pickford, debt advisory director at FRP, said: “We’re pleased to have supported R-Group on securing its latest funding milestone, and to see the relationship between the Rigby team and HS Credit go from strength to strength. As a well-capitalised lender, HS Credit also has long standing property expertise and a growing presence in the North West, complementing Rigby’s ambitions in the region.”

Some of the Ecogee team

Liverpool energy and construction specialist Ecogee has been announced as a main supplier in Fusion21’s £750m national Decarbonisation Framework.

The four-year framework, which is being led by the renowned Huyton-based social enterprise, is specifically designed to meet the needs of public sector organisations such as NHS trusts, education providers, housing associations and more as they accelerate their journey towards achieving net zero targets. Ecogee believes it was selected as a supplier due to its 10-year commitment to green energy, and in particular its extensive work in helping end fuel poverty in the local area by working with registered providers and local authorities.

Managing Director, Brendan Helm, said: “It is a great honour to have been selected as a supplier for Fusion21, and to have Ecogee recognised as a leading energy saving provider in our field, especially as the majority of those awarded were larger organisations. This demonstrates just how far we have and continue to develop. We are dedicated to combating the fuel crisis that is affecting our entire country, with a particular focus on our local region.”

The Fusion21 Framework appoints 50 specialist firms, including SMEs and multinational suppliers, as they strive to meet the Government’s net zero target by 2050. The framework supports the design and delivery of energy efficiency measures, combining contracts that can deliver thermal fabric improvements, heating and renewables, power and building management systems.

John Farley, framework manager (construction) at Fusion21, said: “The tender process was highly competitive and has identified the best contractors for our members to use for the delivery of both domestic and non-domestic retrofit schemes to the latest standards. Members accessing this framework will benefit from flexible call-off options, UK-wide coverage and the option to deliver social value to their communities, aligned to their organisational priorities.”

Together, the Cheadle-based specialist lender, has launched a dedicated taskforce in partnership with regulated housing associations to help ease the UK’s shortage of available homes.

Led by Alex Bodie, the lender’s newly appointed head of social housing, the team has been developed following lengthy discussions with the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) specialist lawyers, debt advisers and property valuers. It will facilitate the financial support of medium-sized housebuilders and housing associations across the UK to provide more accommodation for those most in need.

Housing association trade body, The National Housing Federation (NHF) has calculated that 1.6 million families are waiting for a social home, far more than the one million on the official council waiting list. Meanwhile, homelessness charity, Shelter, said that, despite the huge demand, only 5,955 social rent homes were delivered last year – a decrease of 85% from a decade ago – with only 11 % of them truly ‘affordable’.

Alex Bodie said: “England’s housing crisis is only getting worse. We know there is a particular lack of social and affordable housing for high dependency care, homeless, elderly and vulnerable people, as well as NHS key workers. This has driven tenants to private, temporary accommodation, which can often mean high rents and poor living conditions, problems that the current increased cost of living will only worsen.

“Through Together’s taskforce, our finance, and our close partnerships with registered social housing providers, we are committed to providing more opportunities to support people and provide communities for them to live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives.”

Manchester investment platform AJ Bell has joined forces with Smart Works – a UK registered charity that gives women the confidence they need to secure employment and change the trajectory of their lives. The partnership is part of AJ Bell Money Matters, a campaign to close the gender investment gap of £1.65 trillion in the UK.

In the past eight years, Smart Works has opened eight centres nationwide and helped more than 20,000 women. At the heart of Smart Works sits a dressing and coaching service designed to help women gain confidence and interview skills. Referrals for Smart Works are made from job centres, mental health charities, women’s refuges, homeless shelters, the prison service, care services and youth organisations. Sixty nine per cent of women helped by Smart Works go on to get a job within one month of their first coaching session.

The partnership between AJ Bell and Smart Works has one goal – to help more women achieve financial independence. The programme will include in-person financial education, podcasts, webinars and volunteering by AJ Bell staff at Smart Works events.

Baroness Helena Morrissey, AJ Bell’s chair and the woman spearheading the Money Matters campaign, said: “The AJ Bell Money Matters and Smart Works collaboration is going to be a dynamic partnership and we’re already planning big things. To tackle the gender investing gap, we have to support women when starting their careers, which is where Smart Works make such a difference.”

Kate Stephens, CEO at Smart Works, said: “Smart Works was born out of a desire to help women find financial independence through job success. It’s fantastic to see the difference the service has made since launching in 2013 and over the next three years we have ambitious plans to double the number of women we’re supporting. This wouldn’t be possible without the support of partners like AJ Bell.”

James Franklin, line leader at Faith in Nature

A Bury-based vegan beauty product manufacturer has achieved an additional sales boost of almost £7m over the past year following help from GC Business Growth Hub, which has supported Faith in Nature since 2015.

Following support from Hub advisors on a major rebrand – the first since the business was established in the 1970s by Rivka Rose – the manufacturer has already more than doubled its turnover and created 22 jobs. It has also reached new international markets and won contracts with major UK supermarkets and high street chains including Boots, Sainsbury’s and Monoprix in France.

The company is now on track to quadruple its turnover by 2023, and Jason McNeil, operations director, said: “As society has matured in its thinking around sustainable products, lots of consumers have seen our brand, looked at the range of products, and made an informed decision to start making purchases from us. That all important decision process has been helped recently by our most successful rebrand which took place a few years ago.”

The Hub which is part of the Growth Company and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, helps businesses at all stages of their growth journey. Faith in Nature is one of the 75,000 firms in the region which it has helped since it launched 10 years ago. In the past 10 years the Hub has helped create more than 13,600 jobs and safeguarded a further 12,000.

Anne Campion, Head of Manufacturing and Sustainability at the Hub, said: “Faith in Nature is an exciting business and we’re pleased that we’ve been able to help them maximise the opportunities sparked by a big increase in eco-conscious purchasing. Our support was key for their rebrand, which has been pivotal to their huge sales increase. We helped them access different streams of funding which supported the rebrand, which in turn has led to being stocked by major retailers and new jobs for 22 staff.”