The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Friday, 20 January 2006

Major planning permission boost

as Barr announces annual results

BARR Holdings Limited, the construction, quarrying, waste management and industrial group, has received approval on a major quarry extension in Ayrshire as it announces annual results to March 2005.

Following a year of considerable investment and consolidation, Barr Holdings has announced profits for the year to March 2005 of £455,000, compared to £2.252 million the previous year, which had benefited materially from a number of non-recurring factors. The underlying profits from operations continued to improve in the year and management figures for the current year have shown a significant upturn in the company’s performance, with profit for the first six months exceeding last year by more than £1 million.

Group non-executive chairman Bernard Solomons said: "The year to March 2005 saw the group make considerable investments, such as rebuilding our steel fabrication factory at Creetown, new quarry plant and major development work within our waste business, and the current year has seen the benefit of this strategy."

Executive deputy chairman Anthony Rush said: "The group’s pre-tax profit in the first half significantly exceeds the full year’s performance for 2004/05. In particular, the turnover of our construction group is up over 50% year-on-year in the first six months and is producing satisfactory margins, while all other activities are reporting improvements on last year."

The planning permission to extend the Swinlees Quarry near Dalry is a major boost for the construction industry in North Ayrshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and East and South Ayrshire as it is the only operating quarry producing crushed hard rock coated roadstone and ready-mix concrete in its immediate area.

The planning permission, granted by North Ayrshire Council after approval was recommended by the council’s planning department, will extend the life of the quarry by ten years.

Anthony Rush said: "This enables us to maintain the best practical environmental option for the local area by using a substantial and valuable local resource, helping to reduce vehicle emissions and HGV lorry journeys which would have been a consequence of transporting similar materials from elsewhere in Scotland.

"The approval fits in well with our strategy of ensuring Barr is a growing national company which has a healthy awareness of our importance to the local economy of Ayrshire, where we employ over 600 people."

Following a significant restructuring since May 2003, the company, which employs over 900 people and is now the largest Scottish-headquartered construction group, has enjoyed a rapid recovery in its fortunes, with all divisions operating profitably.

Barr now boasts a construction order book over £350 million and a pipeline of opportunities for the next two years. The company is also the largest independent quarrying company in Scotland and is also a significant operator in the UK structural steel market.

Barr announced late last year that it was exploring options regarding its future after receiving approaches from a number of suitors and this process is continuing.

Bernard Solomons said: "Whilst remaining a thriving, independent company is a viable way forward, the board and management will have to consider whether this could be further boosted by being part of a bigger organisation. We have a duty to our employees and shareholders to explore all the options open to us before any decisions are made. The company will be completing its strategic review shortly."

Thursday, 19 January 2006

Clydesdale Bank announces new

operator at Kilmarnock call centre

CLYDESDALE Bank’s parent company National Australia Group has appointed Airdrie-based beCogent to run its Kilmarnock customer call centre, safeguarding the future of 450 local jobs.

BeCogent has grown into one of the UK’s leading providers of outsourced contact centre services.

Under the 5-year contract, which runs from March, beCogent will operate National Australia Group’s contact centre in Kilmarnock, providing both telephone and Internet banking support for Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank customers.

beCogent’s managing director Charles Breslin told Ayrshire Business News: "This is a fantastic opportunity for beCogent, and we are absolutely delighted to have won this major contract with National Australia Group. Having been chosen after a comprehensive selection process is a great endorsement of the skills, quality and capability beCogent has to offer. This contract will make a major contribution to our growth in the next five years and will provide at least another 450 jobs in the beCogent group."

He continued: "beCogent is an increasingly strong contender in the provision of outsourced contact centre services to the UK financial services sector.

"beCogent’s strong focus on innovation, flexibility and creativity proved key factors in winning this competitive outsourcing contract. The company will implement its distinctive blended live agent and automated solution to give the customer more choice and improved service, whilst delivering significant efficiency savings for National Australia Group over the course of the contract."

This announcement follows National Australia Group’s recent decision to invest £5 million to upgrade the telephony infrastructure at its Kilmarnock site, and confirms the group’s commitment to Ayrshire and to outsourcing contact centres within the UK.

National Australia Group’s head of contact centres Kevin Page said: "Investing in the Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank brands and in electronic and direct channels such as telephone and Internet banking are key aspects of our UK growth programme.

"We recently undertook a review of our overall strategy for call centres and other channels such as Internet banking, which resulted in an overwhelming commitment to invest further in these areas of the business," he continued.

"After an in-depth re-tender process, we chose beCogent as our outsourced contact centre services provider for Kilmarnock because its innovation, flexibility and creativity best matched our own business strategy going forward. We look forward to working closely with beCogent to ensure that our customers receive an excellent service."

Clydesdale Bank was established in 1838 in Glasgow and has a proud history of innovation and support for Scottish industry and communities.

With 2,800 staff and 230 branches, Clydesdale is one of Scotland’s largest banks and is currently expanding its operations into the South of England with its innovative Financial Solutions Centres, offering customers a highly integrated business and private banking service.

Since the launch of beCogent in 1999, the company has grown quickly and now has over 1,300 employees and a turnover of in excess of £20 million.

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