ABOUT 200 North-East workers' futures are secure at one of the world's oldest cable makers after it was bought by a Middle-East company.

AEI Cables, in Birtley, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham, has been acquired by Dubai-based Ducab.

Bosses say work will stay in the North-East, with the partnership increasing AEI's presence in new markets.

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The 175-year-old firm is designing power cables for the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier programme and also works with Shell and British Gas.

The move is a major boost for AEI after it was forced to lay off more than 100 workers in 2011, when volatile copper prices and cheaper imports hit trading.

Under the deal, AEI will become part of the Ducab organisation, which supplies power cables to more than 40 countries.

Clive Sharp, AEI Cables' chief executive, said: “This presents an exciting future for us, and it brings renewed job security for our staff, which is good news for their families and the local community.

“Ducab is a world leader in cable making and brings a wealth of experience, expertise and technical support.

“Joining Ducab offers new opportunities in terms of the products and markets we can serve and gives us further advantage over competitors.

“I'm proud of the progress we have made through some difficult times and this news is testament to the hard work that has been brought to bear by everyone.”

AEI also supplies cables to rail operators and oil and gas firms, and has delivered products to projects in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, and the Russian coal mining market.

Andrew Shaw, Ducab's managing director, added: “AEI has an unrivalled reputation for product quality and the strengths of its team and its employees are a great asset.

“It is these qualities we want to harness and grow as we progress.

“We believe that this heritage, combined with technical expertise in the development of products and services, can help to place the combined company at the forefront of cable development for many years to come.”

What is the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth class programme?

  • The Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers will be the largest and most powerful surface warships ever made for the Royal Navy.
  • The carriers are the Queen Elizabeth and The Prince of Wales
  • The 65,000 tonne carriers' are 56 metres from keel to masthead, which is four metres higher than Niagra Falls
  • 80,000 tonnes of steel is on order for the two ships, which is three times the amount used on the new Wembley Stadium
  • The carriers can take up to 40 aircraft each, double the capacity of existing aircraft carriers
  • Their onboard network will generate enough energy to power 300,000 kettles or 5,500 family homes.