Adler and Allan benefit from major investment

Yorkshire firm Adler and Allan, which masterminded the clean-up operation following the Buncefield oil depot explosion, looked to double in size following a major investment by a private equity group.

Aberdeen Asset Managers Private Equity invested 8.85m for a minority stake in the Harrogate-based business, which currently has a turnover of 28m.

The group will use the backing, plus enhanced banking facilities of 7.5m from HSBC, to double its national network of 16 depots and staff of 270.

Adler and Allan provides a full range of oil, water and tank services to its blue chip customer base and underlined its skill in emergency response situations by leading the clean-up in the aftermath of the Buncefield explosion, in Hemel Hempstead, in December 2005.

The business has been growing quickly over recent years as legislation and regulation relating to the transport, handling and storage of hazardous liquids has increased significantly.

ASD Metal Services, reputed to be the largest independent metals stockholder and distributor in the UK, acquired a fellow Yorkshire firm.

The company, which has its headquarters in Leeds, bought Westok, based in Horbury, Wakefield, for an undisclosed sum.

Westok specialises in the manufacture and distribution of special steel sections, known as cellular beams, for use in floor and roof construction.

ASD employs 1,100 people in a nationwide network of 29 sites. It is part of international group Klockner & Co AG, which is the largest independent producer and distributor of steel and metal products in the combined European and North American markets.

Westok has recovered following a period in the doldrums. In 2002, the company was bought out of administration by a senior management team comprising managing director Andy Holmes, production director Ashley Earnshaw and technical director Mike Hawes, with additional investment from a local engineering company.

The team successfully turned the company round, growing turnover from 6m in 2002 to around 19m last year. It employs 90 people.

Tuesday

The Yorkshire region is in the running to win investment of more than 50m from one of Europe's biggest building insulation materials companies, it was revealed.

The region is on a shortlist to be the home for a major plant, which would create 130 jobs and produce 45,000 tonnes of material a year.

Spanish company URSA Insulation, which is one of the three largest suppliers in Europe of insulation materials for buildings, wants to grow its presence in the UK by building its first factory in England.

The plant will produce glass wool, which offers high levels of heat and sound insulation.

URSA is set to invest around 57m in the project, which could be up and running by late 2009.

URSA has been an active player in the UK thermal and acoustic insulation materials markets since 2000. Its products are used in structural engineering and civil engineering.

Whitbread said it was to expand its Premier Travel Inn brand into India with plans to spend 150m opening 80 budget hotels in the country.

The group's aim is to create 12,000 rooms in India over the next 10 years.

Whitbread, which also owns the Beefeater restaurant and Costa Coffee chains, is planning the first hotels in the Delhi region and said the move would fill a gap in the country's hotel market.

The news came as the company also announced a 13m rebranding of the chain, which has more than 480 hotels in the UK, as Premier Inn.

Whitbread said the hotel chain had outperformed the market in the 13 weeks to May.

Whitbread, which is in the process of selling its David Lloyd health club chain for 925m, said it was going into business with joint venture partner Indian developer Emaar-MGF.

Whitbread said it also planned to spend 22m in the second half of the year rebranding its UK budget hotel business.

Wednesday

Sainsbury's warned of slower consumer spending, echoing a similar warning from Tesco on Tuesday, as shoppers tighten their belts after four interest rate rises.

The group, the UK's third biggest supermarket chain behind Tesco and Leeds-based Asda, reported lower than expected first-quarter growth. UK like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 5.1 per cent in the 12 weeks to June 16, below average forecasts of 5.4 per cent.

In its defence, Sainsbury's said the group had had an exceptionally strong quarter the previous year when shoppers went on a spending spree during the World Cup and a period of exceptionally warm weather.

Chief executive Justin King said the impact of four interest rate rises in 10 months was being felt but he believed Sainsbury's advertising focus on fresh foods would help it to withstand any slowdown.

Sainsbury's said that the recent round of price cutting by rivals Tesco, Asda and Bradford-based Morrisons, reflected the competitive nature of the market, but added that it had moved to cut prices on 4,500 products since April.

DSG International, the owner of Currys and PC World, said it was to return 100m to investors after deciding not to buy a 10 per cent stake in a Russian company.

DSG said it had decided against entering the Russian market, having seen how other British companies have performed there.

The company had a long-held option to buy a 10 per cent stake in privately- owned Eldorado by the end of the year. Instead, it will return 100m to investors over the coming 12 months.

The news came as DSG announced a five per cent fall in pre-tax profits, to 295.1m, in the year to April 28. This was before exceptional items of 170m following a restructuring of the loss-making UniEuro unit in Italy.

Full-year sales rose 14 per cent to 7.93bn.

Thursday

Struggling camera chain Jessops announced plans to axe 550 jobs and close 81 stores in a bid to revive the store.

Jessops said the cost-cutting drive came as the firm announced pre-tax losses of 25.2m for the six months to April 1.

The Leicester company has been suffering from heavy internet and supermarket competition in its key digital camera markets.

Jessops said the closure of 26 per cent of the store portfolio would leave it with 234 profitable outlets.

The half-year losses include 16.7m of one-off costs through the store closures and selling off its older stock.

The housing market might be slowing after rises in interest rates, but Bradford & Bingley is comfortable that its core specialist lending business is strong.

The bank's lending is geared towards buy-to-let loans for property investment and self-certification loans for the self-employed.

As B&B issued a trading statement, chief executive Steven Crawshaw said: "We've had an excellent start to the year, marked by very strong growth.

"Prospects remain good for the second half as demand continues to drive the buy-to-let market."

The bank's statement said that on the basis of the year so far, underlying profits before tax for the whole of 2007 would be near the top end of forecasts which range from 358m to 377m.

Friday

The energy services company, Cape, was back in takeover talks with PCH, a cleaning services firm based in Australia.

Though there was no direct comment from Cape, sources close to the Wakefield-based company said reports from Australia on the resumption of dialogue were correct.

Cape began talks with PCH in February and put forward an indicative offer of 90 Australian cents per share, valuing the target at some 60m. But in April the company backed away, complaining it had been unable to have "meaningful engagement or constructive dialogue" with PCH or its advisers. On Friday, PCH told the Australian Stock Exchange discussions had resumed.

Cape specialises in scaffolding, insulation, security and catering for the oil, gas and petrochemical industries.

Cape also said that it was paying an initial 2m for Endecon, a Wrexham-based company that supplies what it calls environmentally safe systems to decontaminate oil refinery and petrochemical installations.