Editor’s summer roundup of investments, takeovers and other tasty stories

Trufflehunter, the Gloucestershire business which is expanding internationally

As the summer wraps up with the final bank holiday over, it’s a good time to look back on the last two months of business activity across the region.

And there’s a lot been going on…. let’s look first at some of our biggest companies which have been making headlines nationally as they fall prey to takeover bids. If you’re not interested in the big boys, scroll down to the headline Food Glorious Food to read the very tasty news of some of our smaller food businesses which are enjoying phenomenal success.

MeggittMeggitt PLC, the Coventry engineering company which works on military programmes for the BAE Systems Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters, received a second offer to buy in August, valuing the company at £7.1 billion.

Meggitt employs 9,000 people worldwide, including 2,300 in the UK. It mainly produces parts including wheels, brakes and fire suppression systems for military and civilian jets, such as Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

The offer sparks renewed national debate on the vulnerability of British companies to overseas takeovers. Recent takeovers in the region include Solihull-headquartered St. Modwen to Blackstone in May

Vectura in Chippenham looks likely to be taken over by Philip Morris. Yes that’s right – one of the world’s largest tobacco makers wants to buy the company which makes inhaled medicines and devices to treat respiratory illnesses, which smoking exacerbates.

VecturaYou couldn’t make it up…. Or could you? Philip Morris says it wants to “unsmoke the future.”

Philip Morris’s CEO, Jacek Olczak, said: “PMI’s acquisition of Vectura is part of our long-term strategy to transform PMI by investing in scientific excellence and leveraging its capabilities and expertise.

“Our investment will accelerate the development and delivery of inhaled therapeutics to address many of today’s unmet medical needs. We look forward to working with Vectura’s great people as we embark on the next stage of our transformation.”

Let’s hope it’s not all smoke and mirrors.

Meanwhile, Ultra Electronics Holdings plc, which designs mission-critical solutions mainly in military and commercial aerospace at its base at Arle Court in Cheltenham, is being bought by defence industry counterpart, Cobham.

The deal values Ultra at £2.6 billion takeover by Cobham, or rather Cobham Ultra Acquisitions Limited – a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary of Cobham Group Holdings Limited.

And while the overseas investors are circling, there’s quite a lot of activity domestically too.

EcotricityEcotricity, the innovative green energy company from Stroud is looking almost lasciviously at the equally innovative Good Energy from Chippenham.

It already owns a quarter of the company; can it persuade Good Energy shareholders to sell? Good Energy’s board is dead against it and have called it a “hostile takeover”. The plot continues for another few weeks….

Takeovers of British companies hit a 14-year high by value in the first seven months of 2021, according to a Reuter’s analysis of financial analysts Refinitiv data, with no sign the buying spree is slowing after US companies targeted a leading supermarket and defence groups.

The total value of UK deals in the seven months was $198 billion, an increase of more than threefold on the same period last year, which included the onset of the pandemic.

Deals involving a British target totalled $34.9 billion in July, per cent less than June but more than seven times the value in July 2020.

Meanwhile, what of our SMES?

The big companies employ hundreds of people and many more in the supply chain but what of our SMEs – the backbone of the UK economy?

Some are still fighting to extricate themselves from the misery of the last 12 months. Malvern pipe manufacturer Tricorn is looking for suitors after challenging 18 months

Others are investing. Many technology and cyber companies have had a very strong year. 2020 was a new record year for cybersecurity investment in the UK.

Cheltenham cyber park CGIThe sector is now worth an estimated £8.9 billion, employing around 50,000 people. A large part of the success is driven out of several tech cluster regions outside London. Cheltenham, home of GCHQ, UK’s intelligence and security organisation and the National Cyber Security Centre (NSSC), is one of the fastest growing reginal ecosystems for cybersecurity in the UK.

If you click on our Cyber & IT tab on our website, you’ll read story after story on the success of cyber businesses across the region, and of the massive investment in the UK’s first dedicated Cyber Park in Cheltenham.

The UK tech sector has shown both remarkable resilience and growth in 2020 in spite of unprecedented challenges across the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit uncertainty.

Insights from the Tech Nation Report 2021 reveal a number of successes the UK can celebrate, including world-leading growth in deep tech investment at 17%, while North America and Asia both experienced falling rates between 2019 and 2020.

Venture capital (VC) investment in Net Zero tech also boomed by 160 per cent, with a surprise 160 per cent growth in transport tech VC investment, despite global lockdowns last year.

I can’t highlight every deal done from the more than 400 stories we’ve run on companies across the region in July and August, and I’ve not mentioned the many fabulous stories on renewable energies which are on our website (under the “More Business” then “Sustainable Futures” tabs on our website, so I’ll finish with some tasty news.

Food Glorious Food

PulsinFood is ingestible, and investible. Very investible. In late July, Investment company S-Ventures PLC bought Gloucester-based nutrition company Pulsin Limited.

Pulsin is a well-established plant-based nutrition company, with a focus on healthy protein bars, nutritional snacks and Keto bars. The sale values the company at around £7.5 million.

Fitbakes, the award-winning Cheltenham snacks brand, which smashed its funding target of £225,000 through Seedrs, in just nine hours last month went on to raise more than half a million pounds the crowdfunding platform which will allow it to pump up its Amazon channel in the UK and abroad.

FitbakesTruffleHunter is expanding its site at South Cerney near Cirencester to keep up with demand. The development sees a collection of new spaces including a larger production area and a new dedicated snack manufacturing line.

The company, which won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise earlier this year, has also announced a new range to its snacking portfolio. The White Truffle & Lobster Crisps and the Black Truffle Crisps are now available in fully recyclable tins and compostable bags.

Right at the beginning of her business journey is Deborah Lamplugh. She has created a granola in her Gloucestershire B&B farmhouse kitchen.

Forthay GranolaForthay Granola is home-baked, gluten free, totally natural with no additives and no refined sugar. Sound too good to be true? It might be (I haven’t tasted it), but lots of people love it already, and it’s picked up a Good Taste 1-Star Great Taste Award.

Wiltshire-based entrepreneur, Luke Craven, has received Start Up Loan funding via SWIG Finance to launch his new sustainable food brand, BiJimini Spices.

BiJimini Spices is using the £21,000 loan to set up supply chains, cover initial manufacturing costs and support the marketing of the official business launch.

Designed to help tackle the harmful environmental impact of industrial meat production, BiJimini Spices uses cricket powder as a supplement to provide nutritional as well as environmental benefits.

Bijimini Cajun SpiceAnd now I’m looking forward to the Autumn, that Keatsian season of mist and mellow fruitfulness. It’s certainly not going to be easy for many businesses. Supply chain problems brought on by Brexit restrictions are making some products harder to find.

But our regional businesses continue to fight Covid, Brexit and have their sleeves rolled up for whatever else might be on the horizon. And we’re here to support them.

As we continue to be busy writing the next October issue, which goes to print at the end of September, all I can say is welcome to autumn.


Nicky Godding, Editor-in-Chief 

Nicky main pic