Case study

Distinction secures $7million contract with UKEF support

London SME Distinction will supply furniture to the Palm Jumeirah, the first Viceroy hotel to open in Dubai.

Expected view from the Viceroy hotel, Dubai

In late 2016, Distinction won a $7 million contract to supply the furniture for the Palm Jumeirah hotel. As the first Viceroy hotel to open in Dubai, with over 477 luxury guest rooms spread across 16 floors, this represented a huge and prestigious opportunity for Distinction.

When Distinction were in need of an advance payment guarantee from a UK bank to be able to fulfil the contract, UK Export Finance (UKEF) issued a $1.2million guarantee to Distinction’s bank under its Bond Support Scheme. This meant that Distinction was able to create more jobs in the UK and significantly expand its exports alongside its strong domestic business.

Minister for International Trade and London, Greg Hands, said:

Small businesses are a driving force of the UK economy and Distinction is a great example of how SMEs can thrive in the international marketplace, when they get the support they need. Supporting SMEs is a growing part of UKEF’s role and that is why I’m proud the UK government could support Distinction on this high-profile project, growing its business and creating jobs here in London.

Challenges faced

Exporting to the Middle East had not been without its challenges, despite more than half of Distinction’s sales being to the region. In return for an advance payment from the buyer, Distinction needed to provide an advance payment guarantee from its UK bank, an assurance for the buyer that Distinction would deliver its side of the deal. To issue such guarantees, banks usually request a cash deposit from the UK seller but this can put pressure on smaller companies who are keen to take on ambitious export contracts yet may not have sufficient liquidity to fund both a deposit and contract fulfilment.

This wasn’t the only challenge. UK banks can often take weeks to decide whether they will issue a guarantee, which Distinction had found to be an area of difficulty for customers in the Middle East.

Mark Elliot, CEO of Distinction commented:

Turnaround times are much faster in the Middle East – there you can get a bank guarantee in 48 hours. So when there’s a delay on our side, we risk looking slow and inefficient to our buyers. This is something we’ve experienced time and time again.

Government support

Fortunately, UKEF was able to provide financial support. Under its Bond Support Scheme, UKEF issued a $1.2 million guarantee to Distinction’s bank, enabling the company to secure the guarantee it needed without such a large deposit, and liaised with contacts at the bank to ensure a fast turnaround time.

Mark Elliot, CEO of Distinction, commented that:

The Middle East is a thriving market; there is a respect and demand there to buy from UK companies and we want to take full advantage of that. To secure this deal we needed to get everything finalised on a short timescale and UKEF pulled out all the stops to make it happen; this and the direct financial support we received from UKEF was invaluable. I doubt we would have been able to take on the contract without it.

As a result, Distinction secured $7 million in revenue with an important customer in an auspicious market for the company. Thanks to the success of this deal, Distinction was able to build a strong relationship with a new customer and grow the headcount of its UK office by almost half. This will play a vital role in its ambitious plans for growth and to significantly expand its exports to the Middle East, particularly Dubai, alongside its strong domestic business.

About Distinction

Distinction has been designing and supplying bespoke furniture for luxury hotels for over 33 years. With customers across the world, exporting has played an important role in the company’s success to date; its business has traditionally been focused in Europe, but as the tourism industry in the Middle East has seen recent rapid growth, this too has become a significant market for Distinction.

More information

Image copyright: Distinction Group

Published 29 June 2017