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28 January 2015

A positive outlook for another strong year

Malcolm Edge, Chairman of North West Business Finance, which manages The North West Fund, reflects on The Fund’s progress to date and looks ahead to the next twelve months...

Malcolm EdgeIt is clear that small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are the life blood of the UK economy, and therefore play a key role in driving the prosperity of the North West.

Currently, UK SMEs employ almost 60% of the private sector workforce and account for almost half of all private sector turnover. Our role at The North West Fund is to support these vital businesses with finance, in order to stimulate growth and employment.

According to the latest ICAEW/Grant Thornton UK Business Confidence Monitor (BCM), business confidence in the North West increased for the final quarter of 2014. This is in contrast to the cooling results for the UK as a whole.

The same report also reveals that in the North West there has been a strong reduction in the number of businesses reporting problems accessing capital. This is very positive news for us - it is imperative that businesses are aware of all the options available to them. Being able to access the right type of finance at the right time allows businesses to grow and create jobs.

It seems we are all entering the New Year with an optimistic outlook. For The North West Fund, this is certainly the case, after another strong performance in 2014. During last year we celebrated a number of key milestones, having invested over £100 million in more than 300 businesses. In fact, we finished the year having supported over 330 businesses with more than £112 million invested.

We are also pleased that private sector co-funding has contributed a further £70 million and through our portfolio of businesses we have created or safeguarded in the region of 3,000 jobs.

All of our remaining capital must be invested by 31st December 2015, making this a particularly important year for us and our fund managers. 

It is great to hear that companies which attracted investment over the past four years are growing, winning new orders and creating new jobs. Some of our businesses, like Health and Wellbeing Brands Ltd, mentioned in this newsletter, have also received follow-on investment and are becoming strong, established businesses that are positively contributing to the North West economy.

We are absolutely determined to continue to push The Fund forward and we are committed to creating a strong and sustainable legacy in the North West, whilst at the same time, inspiring and supporting our entrepreneurs.

It is important to us that sources of alternative finance remain accessible to businesses in the region. Therefore we continue to work closely with our stakeholders at the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.

Also, in collaboration with each of the North West Local Enterprise Partnerships we are considering the opportunity of launching a successor North West JEREMIE programme which would provide SME finance for the region beyond 31st December.

The details of a successor programme are still to be finalised but the initial feedback is positive and we are aware of the strong demand for alternative forms of loan and venture capital finance across the region. It is clear that a second North West Fund would boost the legacy funding available to North West businesses and help to ensure continuity and stability in economic growth.

We have seen the funding landscape evolve considerably over recent years, but one consistency here in the North West has been the multitude of ambitious entrepreneurs and innovative businesses with the potential for growth. We would like to see this continue long into the future.



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