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26 January 2012

Andy Leach, CEO NWBF

Step forward the inspiring entrepreneurs of 2012...

Andy Leach

The North West Fund is just over a year old - and what a year it has been. All around us the Eurozone has teetered on the brink of collapse and legions of economists have disagreed on the extent and duration of the economic downturn whilst arguing about the propensity of the world to sink into a double-dip recession. However, these economists have agreed on one thing - we have to grow our way out of the problem, which is why we have diligently gone about our job of offering support to businesses in the region with growth ambition and inspiring entrepreneurs.

During 2011, we received almost 1,700 enquiries for funding, worth a total of £521m. By the end of 2011, 53 of these businesses had received £11m of investment from The North West Fund, with many more of these earmarked for funding in the first quarter of 2012.

The current level of investment into these businesses tells only part of the story though.  As funders of growing businesses, we fully expect that these companies will benefit from further investment from The North West Fund as they expand their activities or performance milestones are achieved.  Our current expectation is that the businesses that we have funded to date to the tune of £11m will, over the next 1-3 years, receive a further £9m of funding from us, bringing to almost £20m, the investment capital presently earmarked for these businesses.  Our ongoing financial support for the businesses in which we invest, is one of the fundamental features of The North West Fund.

Whilst the spread of funding applications across the region has broadly followed the demographics of the region's business activity, the one feature that has really taken us by surprise has been the large number of applications that we have received from outside the North West.  These have comprised both businesses looking to relocate and entrepreneurs looking to establish their businesses here - in the case of our sector-oriented funds this has accounted for up to one in three applicants.  This is clear evidence that the North West is a great place to do business, with a strong business culture, exceptional facilities and the cluster momentum and presence in our chosen sectors which really can make a difference to a business and its management.

On a regional basis, Merseyside and Greater Manchester businesses have together received approximately £3.25m of funding each with Cheshire following them closely, having secured £2.6m.  It is also important to mention that, with £3.7m invested in December 2011 alone, momentum is building all the time as our investment pipeline translates into completed funding.

The momentum that The North West Fund has now generated highlights, I think, both the sterling work of our fund managers and the appetite among North West businesses to be bold and push for growth, notwithstanding the prevailing negative economic sentiment.

Although I do not intend to select a favourite investment (I will leave that to our fund managers later in this issue), I have been particularly pleased with our range. Investments have varied in quantum from £50,000 to £800,000; we have supported business as geographically spread as from Crewe in South Cheshire to Alston in Cumbria; we have backed businesses ranging from those just starting to those which have been established in the region for many years; and we have partnered with entrepreneurs ranging in age from those not long past their 20th birthday to those into their 60's.

The appetite for investment across the region has been refreshing. It leaves me in no doubt that our fund managers will continue to invest in many, many superb businesses during 2012 and beyond.

In this issue, as well as updates from our fund managers, you'll find some thoughts from successful business people on equity investment, hear from two of our investee entrepreneurs and finally from MikeTaylor of Liverpool Vision. In March we will see Liverpool play host to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2012  a festival for business where people, passion and potential will be celebrated, inspired and accelerated. We are excited to have such a world class event to showcase the North of England at a time when The North West Fund is helping to inspire entrepreneurs in pursuit of growth.

Clearly, there is much hard work ahead in 2012 and it is virtually impossible to predict with any certainty how the economy will look at the end of the year. However, I am convinced that 2012 will undoubtedly provide many opportunities for ambitious enterprises to become the investments that we will be talking about in twelve months' time - and for those people behind these businesses to be the entrepreneurs who inspire the next generation of talent.

Let me take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked so hard with us during 2011 for helping The North West Fund establish its strong market position and build the momentum that will ensure that our investment capital is fully utilised for the benefit of our regional businesses and entrepreneurs.   So, if you are a business owner looking for support, or a banker or adviser with an investment proposition, please get in touch at: http://www.thenorthwestfund.co.uk/contact  

We look forward to hearing from you.

Andy Leach

Chief Executive, North West Business Finance

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