Tuesday 22nd January 2019
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 09/01/2019

Firms stay confident on their own prospects despite economic pessimism

Business confidence in the East of England fell in December although firms’ belief in their own prospects in the region improved slightly and a positive balance are still planning to hire more staff during the coming year. A Lloyds Bank business barometer for December showed that overall confidence for firms in the East fell by six points in the month to 11 per cent and a net balance of six per cent of firms are pessimistic about the economy. But firms’ confidence in their own business prospects rose one point to 27 per cent. Companies’ hiring intentions showed that a net balance of eight per cent of businesses in the region expect to hire more staff during the next year, although this was down on the previous month. Steve Elsom, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Business confidence across the region has slid backwards in December, driven by economic pessimism amid a backdrop of ongoing uncertainty. But it’s heartening to see that regional firms still have confidence in their own business prospects and are making headway with their growth ambitions as they enter the new year.”

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Export boost for Suffolk firms

Manufacturing firms in Suffolk saw an improvement in exports in the fourth quarter, according to Suffolk Chamber’s economic survey. It says manufacturers have continued to report more bullish data that services firms with export sales rising to +41 per cent from +15 per cent in the third quarter and export orders increasing to +32 per cent up from +11 per cent. The survey said business activity and sentiment in Suffolk has continued to decline from earlier peaks although most firms report largely favourable performances. But manufacturing sector employment growth fell 31 points to +12 per cent. In the service sector, the local balance fell by six percentage points to +12 per cent. Most firms said they were under pressure to raise prices, particularly in manufacturing sector and the outlook for future profitability was at its lowest since the second quarter of 2017.The results were in line with the East of England as whole although Suffolk firms were more optimistic in terms of both domestic and overseas sales and orders.

Contractor appointed on new £150 million Stansted terminal

London Stansted Airport has appointed Mace as the main contractor on its new £150 million arrivals terminal where construction on the 39,000 sq m building is due to start in the spring, for completion in autumn 2020. The new terminal is the flagship project in the airport’s £600 million investment to support its future growth. Ken O’Toole, CEO of London Stansted, said: “Mace has a great track record of delivering major projects like this on time, on budget and to the highest quality. London Stansted’s transformation project is really gathering momentum." The arrivals terminal will include larger immigration and baggage reclaim areas, new retail facilities, a public forecourt and improved access for onward transport options. When complete, Stansted will be the only UK airport operating dedicated arrivals and departures terminals.

Malted products maker plans expansion in Suffolk

Suffolk-based malted products manufacturer Muntons is set to expand at its Stowmarket hq helped by a £73m loan facility from HSBC UK. The family-owned business will use the committed five-year asset based lending facility to fund capital projects and meet growing demand from consumers for malted ingredients. The firm plans to increase liquid malt extract plant production capacity significantly at Stowmarket. Andy Simpson, group finance director at Muntons, said: “This is an exciting time for Muntons and we’re delighted that HSBC UK has supported us with our significant expansion plans. We purchase more than 250,000 tonnes of barley every year from within the UK, and our new plans to increase our manufacturing capabilities mark the start of a fantastic new chapter for us.”

Ivor McTighe, HSBC UK business development director for ABL, added: “Long-established Muntons is a fantastic business investing for the future and supporting the UK economy. It exports worldwide and our committed ABL facility will enable them to explore additional opportunities for growth outside of Europe.” Muntons employs over 250 in the UK and a further 70 internationally.

Offshore services group signs agreement at Port of Lowestoft

Peterson UK, a logistics and service provider to the offshore energy sector, has signed a new long-term agreement with Associated British Ports to set up a new operational and logistics base to the Port of Lowestoft. It will see Peterson operate a wide range of warehouse, cargo and logistic services from the port, including fuel bunkering to support the oil & gas and renewable energy sectors being supplied from Lowestoft. Paul Smith, Peterson business manager East of England, said: "...We have a strong track record in servicing the Southern North Sea from both the UK and Netherlands and the Port of Lowestoft is an ideal location from which to support our existing Southern North Sea customer base and potential new customers. The move comes as the Port of Lowestoft is expanding its offshore services with recent investments by Scottish Power to develop ots permanent operations and maintenance base.

Andrew Harston, ABP director short sea ports, said: “Our team has worked very hard with Peterson to conclude this agreement. We know that Peterson chose the Port of Lowestoft for its vessel handling capabilities and space to grow, as well as ABP’s commitment to continuing investment and the quality of the local management team."

Photo: ABP's local management team welcomes Peterson UK to Lowestoft

Law firm advises on sale of majority stake in software firm

Law firm Birketts has advised the owners of Commcise Software on the sale of a majority 78 per cent stake for £27m to Euronext, the pan-European exchange. Founded in 2013 and based in London, Commcise offers a cloud-based research commission management, evaluation and accounting solution for asset managers, brokers and independent research providers. The founding team of Commcise will remain in place. Birketts advised the Commcise owners on all legal matters. Adam Jones (corporate partner, photo, right) led the team which included Alex Forwood (corporate associate), Tom Utting (corporate solicitor), Karl Pocock (tax partner), John Kahn (tax senior associate) and Clare Barlow (employment legal director). Amrish Ganatra, chief executive officer of Commcise, said: “Birketts has been an integral part of the Commcise story. All members of the team have been outstanding throughout the last five years, from helping us create and develop the SaaS agreement which has been rolled out to over 500+ firms, to supporting us on all our employment agreements and then, most recently, on the key transaction with Euronext.”

Adam Jones added: “Although the timetable for the deal was particularly challenging, our in-depth knowledge of the Commcise business and the wider financial services and technology sectors meant we understood the value that Euronext was looking to secure, so we were able to help the clients close out favourable terms in very short order on what was a complex international transaction.”

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Essex-based group launches innovative new industrial cleaning company

Essex-based energy-saving fouling removal pioneer Tube Tech International is marking its 30th year in business with the launch of a new company, Tube Tech Research and Development to provide innovative solutions to cleaning in all industrial areas. In addition to self-funded developments, the firm has attracted significant Innovate UK and EU grant-funded projects.  Founded by CEO Mike Watson (photo, right)  in 1988, TTIL employs 28 staff and has delivered significant energy savings to refineries and petrochemical plants spanning Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and the USA – where, in 2018, it launched Tube Tech Inc; a subsidiary of TTIL based in Houston, Texas. The firm has also been awarded €5m from two rounds of European Union research and innovation funding. As part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, TTIL is developing the world’s first automated external ‘shell side’ heat exchanger cleaning system to remove near 100 per cent of previously inaccessible fouling, substantially reducing CO2 emissions and wasted energy. Mike Watson, who started the business from a bedsit in Shoebury, said : “I’m really proud of my teams both in admin and operations, pulling in the same direction and supporting each other. It has always been my aim to empower staff to build relationships with each other, clients and suppliers and innovate at every step – with no limits.”

Wind farm grant to encourages Norfolk students take up of Stem subjects

A grant from the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm's community fund STEM programme is enabling Sheringham High School to lead an innovative robotics development project for students from six Norfolk schools. The project will give students opportunities to observe and develop stem skills beyond the classroom and increase student uptake in GCSE and A-Level stem subjects. It will also involve students in the 2019 Robotex Expo international robotics competition in Estonia. Sonja Chirico Indrebø, power plant manager of the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm off the Norfolk coast, said: “Norfolk is now a hub for the UK offshore wind industry…There is a recognised shortage of engineers across the UK, so I believe it is very important that Equinor, as a major offshore wind farm operator, takes an active role supporting projects and initiatives which are designed to encourage students to embrace STEM education and give them hands-on experience of technology." Equinor contributes £100,000 each year to its Dudgeon Community Fund.

Photo: Students with science teacher Charlotte Gardener (2nd right) and Sonja Chirico'