Tuesday 19th February 2019
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 08/02/2019

Firms struggle with debts but fewer businesses show signs of distress

A significant number of businesses in the region are struggling to pay their debts by their due date and are renegotiating payment terms although overall signs of distress amongst East of England companies fell over 2018. New research from the Eastern branch of R3 showed that around 13 per cent of companies in the region are struggling to pay debts by their due date and the same share is renegotiating payment terms with creditors. Meanwhile, 6 per cent of local businesses say they would be unable to pay their debts if interest rates were to increase by a small amount whilst seven per cent are just paying the interest on their debts. However the number of businesses seeing at least one signs of distress has fallen to 48 per cent from 58 per cent in April 2018. R3 Eastern forecasts a mixed year ahead for businesses in the region, particularly those which are struggling and are only paying off interest on their debts and not the debt itself. R3 Eastern chair Mark Upton, a partner at Ensors Chartered Accountants in East Anglia, said: “Some of these ‘zombie businesses’ might eventually be able to restructure or find new investment, and grow. Others will run out of road and become insolvent. While this would mean capital could be ‘recycled’, it may also be a bit of an economic shock in itself. He added: “Positively, the Government has recently announced plans to improve the UK’s business rescue and restructuring options." Read more...

Region's manufacturers stay confident

SMEs in the East Anglia region remain optimistic and confident about future growth, despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, rising production costs and skill shortages, according to the latest MHA manufacturing and engineering report.  All of the respondents in East Anglia were SMEs with less than 250 employees with a turnover range of under £1 -20 million, operating in a wide range of sub-sectors. Optimism is high with over 73 per cent of SME businesses in East Anglia expecting revenue growth in the next 12 months. Investment in R&D is also high but suprisingly 36 per cent of respondents will not be making a claim for R&D tax credits in the next 12 months. The report notes that it is promising to see a commitment to further investment in the sector. Given the recent increase in the annual investment allowance to £1 million for two years from 1 January 2019, the it says it will be interesting to see the level of capital spend in the next two years in the region.

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Firm wins 20 year contract for high speed telecoms network in Suffolk

MLL Telecom and CityFibre have won a 20-year contract from Suffolk County Council to extend the county’s existing Wide Area Network (WAN) to connect over 600 public sector sites and provide them with ultra-fast and next generation internet services. MLL and CityFibre will also build, operate and own a 114km dark fibre spine network across 10 towns in the county to connect over 300 of those sites to a high speed network. The hope is that the full fibre network will make Suffolk a candidate for private investment in full fibre roll-outs to homes and businesses. The project was made possible by a £5.9 million award to Suffolk County Council from the Culture Department’s local full fibre network challenge fund and will begin across ten towns: Ipswich, Bury, Lowestoft, Haverhill, Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Sudbury, Stowmarket, Mildenhall and Newmarket. It also involves apprenticeship training programmes and courses to boost key digital skills the area. “Through this new 114km fibre network, our councils, NHS clinics, fire stations and more will be able to access leading edge connectivity, which will have a real economic and social impact in the region,” said Chris Bally, deputy chief executive at Suffolk County Council. “Better, more reliable internet access for our public services will bring untold benefits - like more investment, more jobs, and more businesses.”

Planning sought for Newmarket warehouse

A planning application has been made for a new warehouse unit of just over 18,000 sq ft with 21 parking spaces in the town's Willie Snaith Road. Barker Storey Matthews has been instructed by developer Hamilton Land to seek interest in this new warehouse scheme, Plot 2000, suitable for trade counter, showroom, high-tech or other warehouse-style uses. Nearby occupiers include Wickes, Travis Perkins, Ridgeons, Screwfix and Howdens Joinery and the town centre is 1.5 miles away. Plot 2000 is being offered on a design & build pre-let or pre-sale basis.

Suffolk coffee start-up opens in Middle East

A Bury St Edmunds coffee start-up is tapping into growing demand for British artisanal coffee in the Middle East by opening its first distribution hub in the UAE, with support from the Department for International Trade . Launched in 2007 from managing director Scott Russell’s car boot, Paddy & Scott’s sells its ethically sourced coffee at its own cafés and espresso bars, and supplies hotels—including Marriott Hotels—across the UK. It also exports to Hong Kong, China and Russia via distributors and concessions. The business has now opened its first distribution hub in Dubai to supply its nitro cold brew and craft coffee to hotels, bars and restaurants across the Middle East. Scott Russell said: “The last few years have been incredible in terms of growth, and we now sell enough coffee to make 90,000 cups a day which is enjoyed by people all over the world. If we can go from start up to multimillion-pound global business with the support from DIT, so can other local businesses.”

Promotions at financial and business adviser

Three promotions have been made at the Norwich office of Grant Thornton. Tim Barnes steps up to the role of senior manager in the audit team having joined the firm in May last year. He will continue to work with larger and international businesses across a range of sectors and take a greater role in producing Grant Thornton’s annual Norfolk Limited reports. James Organ has also been promoted to senior manager in the audit team. Since joining the Norwich office 2010, he has built up a strong skills set supporting privately-owned businesses and large corporates, with expertise in the motor retail sector. His new remit will also involve supporting skills development in the audit team and helping nurture talent. Meanwhile, James Youngs takes on the role of audit manager having joined the firm eight years ago as a trainee and will play an integral role in recruiting new talent to the firm. Audit partner Tim Taylor said: “People are the most important part of any professional services business and we will continue to invest in our team and encourage talent to ensure clients receive the best possible advice and support to fulfil their growth potential.”

Photo (l to r) : Tim Barnes, James Youngs and James Organ

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Senior appointments for law firm's personal injury team

Ashtons Legal has made three senior appointments in its personal injury division. Hannah Clarke is the new head of group for injury services, taking overall responsibility for the personal injury, medical negligence and court of protection teams. She specialises in catastrophic injury claims and is  a Fellow by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and has a strong record in assisting seriously injured clients. Mick Upton is the latest recruit and will be working as a senior associate. He is experienced in dealing with a wide range of serious injury claims and has a reputation for pursuing cases where liability is difficult to prove and bringing them to a successful conclusion. Sarah Barratt who recently qualified as a solicitor having undertaken her training contract with the firm also joins the team. Hannah Clarke said: “I would like to thank my predecessor Tom Cook for his significant contribution to the injury services team over several years; his will be very hard shoes to fill. However I am excited about the new challenge ahead and am greatly looking forward to working with our amazing team to achieve our very best potential for success.”

Photo (l-r) : Sarah Barratt, Hannah Clarke, Mick Upton

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Law firm invests further in CRM

East Anglian law firm Birketts is investing further in client relationship management - signing a firm-wide deal with client lifecycle management specialist, OnePlace. The cloud-based platform will be rolled out across all four locations at the top 100 law firm at the end of 2019 and will support business development strategy and deliver critical insights into the firm’s client relationships, eliminating data silos and consolidating information in a central location. It will enable the creation of a single and holistic view of each Birketts client. Janet Rudge, director of client services at Birketts, said: “A key attraction for us is ease of use – we are confident everyone across the firm will benefit from day one. We plan to use our new CRM system to better understand our valuable client relationships in order to further improve client service and continue to grow our business in strategic areas.” Birketts recently reported a 17 per cent rise in annual turnover to a record £49.5m.

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Financial services firm to sponsor sculpture

Financial services firm Scrutton Bland has joined Elmer’s Big Parade Suffolk by signing up to sponsor an elephant sculpture in the art trail which takes place in Ipswich this summer in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice. Nick Banks, business advisory partner at Scrutton Bland is looking forward to the installation of the Scrutton Bland elephant: “We have a prominent position in the town with our office on the corner of Crown Street and High Street, so this is the perfect opportunity for us to get involved and support both the town and St Elizabeth Hospice. Although I’m not allowed to divulge how the design of our elephant will look, I think it is fair to say that the design which we have chosen is very much in line with our philosophy as a business, in that it is good sometimes to take a look at things differently.”

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New concept combines SCR with networking

Ipswich-based technical agency SimpleClick has launched Do Good Networking; a new concept which combines business networking and corporate social responsibility where professionals can spend a morning to help worth local causes whilst making business connections. Thirteen professionals attended a first event at Emmaus Suffolk in Ipswich in January. The charity supports people in areas such as homelessness, education, training and work opportunities. Claire Staddon, executive lead at Emmaus Suffolk, said: “It was terrific to see so many people give up their time to support our charity. It has been a tremendous help to have our storage unit reorganised, it has been on our list of things to do for some time.”

In brief...

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has appointed Andy Walker as its new head of policy & research. He was most recently communications and engagement officer at the Greater Cambridge Partnership. Abd will head up Suffolk Chamber’s policy development to help deliver key objectives in its Manifesto for Business, contribute to chamber partnerships and coordinate responses to major local and national consultations.  that might impact on Suffolk’s business community.

Local businesses are being encouraged to sign up to a free breakfast event on the potential benefits to the county’s business community from the building of a new nuclear power station at Sizewell C. Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with EDF Energy, the company behind Sizewell C, to host the event on 15 March at Wherstead Park just outside of Ipswich. Jim Crawford, Sizewell C’s project director, will be the keynote speaker.