David Thomas picThe next stages of a specialist North East construction firm’s development are set to be built on a second investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund.

Aartoft Limited is the UK’s only producer of lightweight concrete pre-fabricated bathrooms, which have long been widely utilised in the Scandinavian construction industry for projects ranging from hotels, student accommodation and nursing homes through to apartment buildings and social housing.

Set up in 2012 by Scandinavian husband and wife team Niels Sandahl and Helle Dräger-Sandahl, the Lynemouth-based firm has built a strong customer base both in the UK and in Denmark.

And after diversifying into producing lightweight steel frame bathroom pods that are commonly used in UK construction, it is now increasing its focus on the domestic market with the recruitment of both a new company director, William Johnson, and a number of new apprentices.

In mid-2013, the first phase of Aartoft’s development plans were backed by a £300,000 investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund, which is administered by regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers.

And now, the Aartoft management team has turned once again to NEL for a further £200,000 Growth Fund investment, which they have secured with the support of Ryecroft Glenton Corporate Finance.

Aartoft, which currently employs 30 people, has already won a major new contract with St Andrews University in Scotland, and also has a number of other projects in the pipeline.

Niels Sandahl, who settled in the north east four years ago, says: ”The cost, efficiency and quality benefits that our products and way of working offer have quickly become clear to our growing customer base, and we’re beginning to realise the huge potential that we believe our products have in the UK.

“William’s experience in the domestic market is already proving invaluable in delivering our growth plans, and we are increasing our workforce to help manage the increased demand, with a further senior member of staff set to join before the end of the year.

“Part of the reason for basing ourselves in the North East was the highly-skilled workforce to which we had access, and the apprentices we’re taking on will receive excellent training from staff who have proved extremely adept at manufacturing our very specialised products.

“Our relationship with NEL has worked very well, and with the support of Ryecroft Glenton Corporate Finance, it was a natural choice for us to approach NEL for a second round of funding, which we’re extremely pleased to have secured.”

David Thomas, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Aartoft has a strong product proposition which has made clear inroads into the improving construction sector, and they now have the resources and personnel on board to put the next stage of their commercial strategy into action.”

Barry Gill, Corporate Finance Senior at Ryecroft Glenton Corporate Finance, says: “I advised Aartoft that financing from NEL was a good option for them when the business was establishing itself, and this second round of funding will allow the company to grow further.”

Aimed at regional businesses which are at a development and growth stage, the Growth Fund forms part of the wider Finance for Business North East Fund.

Managed by North East Finance, it will see £142m of investment capital injected into the region by the European Investment Bank and the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13 over a five year period.

NEL is looking to make around 130 investments over the five-year life span of the Growth Fund, and is actively looking to speak to ambitious north east companies with robust business plans.

For more information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit www.nel.co.uk or contact the investment team on 0845 111 1850.

The ERDF 2007-13 programme is bringing over £300m into North East England to support innovation, enterprise and business support.  It will help create and safeguard 28,000 new jobs, start 3,000 new businesses and increase the region’s productivity by £1.1bn per annum.