THE Tyne Valley’s biggest employer has sold of an arm of its company to a Scotland-based firm.

Wood-based panel manufacturer Egger UK, which has a base in Hexham, has announced it is selling off the forest management arm of the business to RTS Ltd.

The company has more than 800 employees, with 640 employed in the particle board factory in Hexham, and also has its Barony plant in Auchinleck, Ayrshire.

The Egger Forest Management team will move across on October 1 to RTS Ltd, which, with an annual turnover of £12m, employs 40 people and is headquarters in Crieff, Perthshire.

Egger UK said it remained fully committed to its harvesting operation, but this sale marks the withdrawal of the company from direct forest management operations, which had been developed by Egger Forestry over the last six years.

John Paterson, director of Egger Forestry, said: “We have taken a strategic decision to sell this specialist part of the Egger business and focus on our harvesting operation which is a key supplier of roundwood to our production sites at Hexham and Auchinleck.

“We are delighted that RTS Ltd has agreed to buy the forestry management business which includes the management of over 8,000 hectares of privately-owned woodlands.

“RTS is a firm which has a similar ethos and philosophy regarding forest management, providing the same bespoke professional services to which our clients have been accustomed.”

Simon Hart, business development manager of EGGER Forestry, set up the Forest Management arm when he joined EGGER six years ago, and moves across to RTS Ltd as part of the deal.

He said: “I’m looking forward to joining RTS Ltd at this very exciting time for the forestry industry across the UK.

“With senior politicians now embracing the need to plant more trees I can only see fantastic growth opportunities.”