Defence contract puts Fenland firm back on the offensive

A Fenland company has secured a lucrative contract to supply military training equipment in the Middle East.

Last year Fenland Leisure Products' future was unclear. Turnover halved and 11 staff – about half of the company's workforce – were made redundant.

But the future looks much brighter after the company, based in Christchurch, near Downham Market, agreed a two-year contract to supply equipment in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Managing director Andrew Sparrow said: 'I'm hoping the deals will open up new avenues for FLP and enable us to grow in markets which are not being affected as badly by the recession as those in the UK and Europe.'

Mr Sparrow described last year as the most difficult in the company's 19-year history. He said: 'Our turnover halved within the year and I had to say goodbye to some valuable staff. We restructured the company and went back to grassroots. We looked at what we're good at, but also whether we could sell outside of the UK. Our main markets are local authorities (education and play equipment) and the Ministry of Defence (training equipment) but government cuts hit every market we operate in. We had a meeting with a representative from the UK Trade and Industry who said that, worldwide, the fact we had supplied the MoD for 18 years was our trump card.'

The company exhibited at the Defence Security and Equipment International exhibition last month, which draws thousands of trade and military visitors from around the world.

The Prince of Jordan was one of many visitors to its stand – and following the exhibition a government-buying consortium from the United Arab Emirates visited Fenland to sign a two-year supply deal. An order has also been taken in Saudi Arabia.

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Mr Sparrow said: 'Hopefully it has opened up new markets for us which will get us through these difficult times until the UK economy picks up. There are a few hurdles to overcome – learning Arabic is one of them – but we are more than prepared to get over these and succeed.'