Yvonne Gale

Dr Yvonne Gale, chief executive at NEL Fund Managers

The North East’s longest-standing business investor has recorded its busiest ever quarter as it continues to grow its portfolio of ambitious regional investees.

NEL Fund Managers made 27 investments across Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland in the final three months of 2019, from the two elements of the £120m North East Fund Supported by The European Regional Development Fund for which it is responsible.

The total value of all the investments in Q4 last year surpassed £2.5m, with businesses including North Tyneside-based fashion label Fresh Couture, County Durham’s Oracle Training Solutions and South Tyneside catering firm Elsie’s Kitchen successfully completing the investment application process in the run-up to Christmas.

And while enquiry levels have remained strong in the first part of 2020, the NEL team is continuing to look for further investment opportunities.

The firm is responsible for investing the £18m North East Growth Capital Fund, which has been designed to create around 790 jobs in more than 70 regional firms over the life of the North East Fund program and offers unsecured investments of up to £500,000 to established businesses looking to realise their growth potential.

It also manages the £9m North East Small Loan Fund, which typically offers loans of between £10,000 and £50,000, and is designed to assist with the creation of over 1,200 new jobs in more than 320 SMEs over the life of the fund.

Dr Yvonne Gale, chief executive at NEL Fund Managers, says: “The run-up to the end of any year provides a natural deadline towards which all parties involved in an investment can work, but last year saw especially high activity levels and it’s a huge credit to our investment team that we got so many deals done in such a short period.

“While we’re active right across our investment area, we’ve been seeing particularly high levels of interest from Durham-based businesses, as well as from applicants in the education and health & fitness markets.

“The impact of the investments we provide is clear to see in the performance of the firms we’ve backed from our two funds, and what’s especially pleasing is seeing a growing number of Small Loan Fund investees coming back to talk to us about accessing the larger Growth Capital Fund to help them make the next step change in their operations.

“Our continuing mission is to keep helping North East firms implement sustainable growth models that enable them to create more and better jobs, and while we have a strong flow of investment proposals coming in that will allow us to do this, we’re very much open to hearing even more ideas from businesses that want to realise more of their potential.”

Jason Hobbs, chief executive at the North East Fund, adds: “Our region offers excellent opportunities for scale-up companies and is home to many successful businesses, some of which are operating at the forefront of their industry, often on a world stage.

“The North East Fund is keen to support local enterprises with their sales growth, new product development and expansion ambitions, and NEL, as a key delivery partner, is integral to us doing that.

“They have invested in some very exciting businesses over the last 18 months on our behalf and we look forward to seeing how these SMEs develop and reach their potential with the aid of funding.”

Kate Shaw
Article by Kate Shaw
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