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Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 08/03/2018

Strong start to year prompts manufacturers to lift investment

Investment plans at manufacturers in the East of England have risen for the fourth quarter running after firms have seen a strong start to 2018 thanks to strong global demand and a pick-up in the UK although recruitment plans have been reined in slightly, according to a first quarter manufacturing outlook survey from EEF/BDO. It suggests manufacturers are continuing to ignore Brexit-related political uncertainty at home as growing global demand, particularly from European markets feeds growth across the supply chain. Both output, at +32 per cent and orders at +41 per cent are high by historic standards and investment intentions by East of England manufacturing firms rose by a healthy +28%. Whilst recruitment intentions dipped to +11%, it follows a strong run of firms taking more employees and remains in positive territory. Charlotte Horobin, region director for EEF in the East of England, said: “While this will help top line growth in UK industry and the wider economy it’s also important that the global race to increase investment and adopt new technology is not one in which the UK is left behind. As the Chancellor sets out some thinking about longer term economic priorities in his Spring statement next week, manufacturers will want to see a focus on how the new industrial strategy can help cut through Brexit uncertainty and turbo-charge investment ambitions right across manufacturing supply chains.”

£10 million development at Port of Lowestoft takes shape

ScottishPower Renewables and Associated British Ports have awarded contracts worth around £10 million for development work at the Port of Lowestoft to support the East Anglia ONE offshore windfarm. SPR is leasing land next to Hamilton Dock from ABP to develop a new operations and maintenance base in Lowestoft, which will serve the £2.5 billion offshore windfarm. NRS Group has been appointed to design and construct a building at the site, which will include specialist offices and warehousing and support the offshore phase of construction work on the windfarm and its 30-plus year lifespan. Meanwhile, ABP is constructing pontoons and land-side utilities for crew transfer vessels to operate from Hamilton Dock which will be designed and constructed by  McLaughlin & Harvey. Charlie Jordan, ScottishPower Renewables project director for East Anglia ONE, said: “The new facility will be a hive of activity for engineers and technicians, and the base for our marine operations to support the day-to-day operations of the windfarm. In total around 100 people will be employed full-time at the port when East Anglia ONE is completed, and the thousands of contractors and supply chain operators using the site every year will contribute substantially to the local economy.”

Paul Brooks, ABP port manager, said: “This project will allow us to continue to support the prosperity of the local community, affirming the Port of Lowestoft’s place as East of England’s innovative Energy Hub.”


Norwich dealership sells Mercedes-Benz franchise

Norwich-based motor dealer, Robinsons Motors Group, has sold its Mercedes-Benz franchises to a US retailer, Group 1 Automotive, in a deal supported by Grant Thornton. Family-owned Robinsons was founded in 1927 and has 28 dealerships across the region, covering the Audi, Mercedes-Benz, SEAT, ŠKODA, smart, Citroen and Volkswagen brands. The deal sees Group 1 acquire Robinsons’ five Mercedes-Benz dealerships in Norwich, Kings Lynn, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge, equal to 45 per cent of Robinson’s 2017 trading turnover. Grant Thornton’s integrated team advised on the complex demerger before seeking a buyer for the Mercedes-Benz side and its Central and East corporate finance team led the transaction. Martin Wallace, chief executive officer of Robinsons Motor Group, said he believed Group 1, which is based in Huston and is the third largest US dealership, will be “..excellent onward employers for our team and will no doubt continue to provide excellent service for our customers."

Steve White (photo, right), director at Grant Thornton who jointly led the deal added: “This was a complex transaction but working closely with Martin and his team, we have achieved a terrific result for the shareholders which will enable the business, with its long and illustrious history, to embark on the next chapter of its continued development within the sector.” The shareholders were advised by Mills & Reeve.

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Bury-based manufacturer goes back into administration

Stanref International (2017) Limited, a Bury-based manufacturer of pressure vessels and heat exchangers, appointed administrators this week. The business was bought out of administration last October but has been unable to secure occupation on its site in Bury’s Northern Way and ran out of time negotiating on another site. Director Adrian Howlett said: “Things were looking up for the business with a full order book and record sales last month but without business premises beyond the end of May we couldn’t continue to accept customer orders knowing the company would not be able to fulfil them.”

McTear Williams & Wood is seeking a buyer as a going concern. Joint administrator Andrew McTear said: “This is the first time in over 30 years where I am offering a business for sale without the option of a business premises it can trade from beyond 31 May 2018.  Realistically any purchaser will need to have existing premises but that apart this is a great opportunity”.

Suffolk-based packaging supplier sold to international group

Suffolk-based H Erben, a packaging and equipment supplier to the food and beverage sector, has been sold to an international group, Berlin Packaging, in a deal supported by Grant Thornton UK and law firm Birketts. H Erben has grown strongly over the past decade and generated revenues of over £30 million last year – having increased turnover almost four-fold since 2007- and shipped more than 1 billion units of packaging. CEO Sasha Erben said: “H Erben was started by my father in 1951 and is the jewel in my family. I am excited about combining our company with Berlin Packaging as I know together we can accelerate investments in our products, team and capabilities like never before.” Berlin Packaging is a $2.6 billion global supplier of rigid packaging products and services to all sectors with a stronghold in North America and European headquarters in Milan. All employees and locations will be retained and the leadership team, including Sasha Erben, will continue in the same capacity. Tim Hansell, head of advisory at Grant Thornton in Norwich, led on the deal and Mark Henry led the team at Birketts who advised the family on the legal aspects of the deal.

Photo caption: Tim Hansell, head of advisory at Grant Thornton in Norwich.

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Law firm  overhauls Cambridge office

Law firm Hewitsons has completed a refurbishment of its Cambridge office, after a year when it increased turnover and recruited extra staff. The firm’ s three-floor, 15,500 sq ft building in Newmarket Road has had a complete overhaul with new client meeting rooms and reception facilities and upgrades to its IT systems and telecoms. In 2017, the firm saw headcount increase to 249 across its offices in Cambridge, London, Milton Keynes and Northampton. Managing partner Colin Jones (photo, centre) said: “The past few years have been very exciting for Hewitsons and, in particular, 2017 was a highly successful year. We have used successive years of growth and rising income to invest in our infrastructure, such as our Cambridge office, our IT systems and, most importantly, in our people.” Construction firm Stirling Grey and design consultancy Workspace carried out the work.

Chamber backs Stansted expansion

Suffolk Chamber has written to Uttlesford District Council to support a planning application by Stansted Airport to increase its passenger cap from 35m to 43m a year. MAG, Stansted's owner, says the airport can make best use of its single runway, within existing flight limits and agreed noise footprint, by creating 5,000 more jobs and double its economic contribution to £2 billion per year as well as attracting new airlines and flights to more global destinations. In a letter, the chamber’s chief executive John Dugmore said an increase in passenger numbers would: “… assist Suffolk businesses in expanding their reach both by offering more choice to businesspeople looking to travel abroad to open up new export markets and in offering additional opportunities to the hospitality and tourism sectors, especially in the west of our county.”

Industrial units in demand in Huntingdon

Property agent Barker Storey Matthews has seen a flurry of lettings at Hinchingbrooke Business Park in Huntingdon with tenants begining to trade this year from newly-built units at Kingfisher Court. Specialist Fire and Security, AV Xpert, Novo Motors and Detail Your Eye Candy are the new occupiers on units ranging from 1,800 to 5,100 sq ft on Kingfisher Court and over half were taken by occupiers prior to construction and completion. Meanwhile at Falcon Court – also developed by Barnack UK – all units have been sold and three out of the four units bought as investments are under offer to tenants

Cambridge college uses new software to cut food waste

St John's College, Cambridge is investing in the latest food monitoring technology to track food waste and increase sustainability and efficiency. It is the first Oxbridge college to use the Chef’s Eye food waste reduction software designed to help hospitality sites control waste, cut food costs and make purchasing more cost-effective. The software enables food waste to be weighed so it can be tracked and monitored, highlighting areas for improvement and leading to reviews of ordering and cooking processes. Bill Brogan, conference & catering manager, said: “Investing in Chef’s Eye is the latest step in our ongoing initiative to run a more sustainable catering operation. Everyone talks about reducing food waste but this software allows a much more scientific approach to the problem. By tracking our food waste, we have been able to implement a number of measures to make our kitchen more efficient and reduce leftover food. For instance we have introduced more batch cooking, careful ordering to eliminate over-purchasing and in some cases, cooking on demand.”

Photo: Herman Doherty uses Chef’s Eye in the kitchens at St John’s College.