Saturday 25th May 2019
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 14/03/2019

Gas producers look at £3 billion investments in southern North Sea

Gas producers in the southern North Sea are looking at potential investments of up to £3 billion to exploit reserves of at least 20 years which are available for development, an energy conference in the region heard last week. Decommissioning projects on gas rigs will also provide work for contractors, including the dismantling of the Hewett Field, one of the oldest gas platforms in the southern North Sea. Firms attending the Oil and Gas Authority SNS Meet the Buyer event, organised by the East of England Energy Group at Norwich City FC, also heard that significant opportunities for suppliers would come from the redesign of the National Grid’s facility at the Bacton Gas Terminal, which will take five years. Bill Cattanach, head of supply chain at the authority, said “There is a real sense the basin is changing and investment levels are up. Four or five years ago people were saying the SNS was on its last legs, but today definitely shows it is far from being in its twilight years. There are lots of opportunities to go after. With the advancement of technology we can do more and more and keep finding new supplies of gas.”

Simon Gray, chief executive of East of England Energy Group, said: “We still have in excess of 20 years of gas left to explore in the Southern North Sea, so this is by no means a dead industry.”

Boost to genetics research and Oxford-Cambridge Arc from Spring Statement

The Chancellor’s Spring Statement included £45 million for genomics research in Cambridge and further measures to boost growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

The European Bioinformatics Institute (right) at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton will benefit from extra cash from the government’s National Productivity Investment Fund to help Britain maintain its lead in genomics research. Steve Elsom, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said the announcement on genetics research was: “…welcome news and a vote of confidence in the region’s economy, and a huge boost to those in the biomedical sector.”

The statement also included measures to bolster growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, including £445 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock over 22,000 homes. It also included a joint declaration with local partners on a shared vision for the arc.

But economists had mixed views on the impact of the statement. Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG in the UK, said: “Despite the downward revision to gdp forecasts, the Chancellor was given an additional £11bn headroom today to spend, thanks to better revenue forecasts by the OBR. The larger war chest of £26.6bn will not go far enough in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as the economy will require a significant boost to counter the shock."


Pick up in business activity in the region

Private sector business activity picked up in the region in February although firms' expectations for output over the coming year remained subdued as workforces shrank for the second month running, according to a key survey of purchasing managers. The NatWest East of England business activity index rose from 50.0 in January to 52.4 in February, the sharpest rise in four months, although still below the long term growth level. Firms in the region saw higher intakes of new business in February and the volume of outstanding work held by private sector firms continued to decline. But jobs were being shed at the fastest rate since September 2012. Input price inflation slowed for the fourth month running but remained strong and output price inflation also eased. The survey said companies remained optimistic regarding output expectations over the next 12 months but sentiment remained at January's weak level. John Maude, NatWest Midlands & East regional board, said: “...New business rose only modestly and backlogs continued to fall, suggesting that output growth is likely to remain subdued in March in the run-up to the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU."

Airline launches second daily service from Stansted to Dubai

Emirates is launching a second daily flight from Dubai to London Stansted from July to meet growing demand, a year after it first started a direct service on the route. “We are increasing capacity to London Stansted to meet steady demand from both leisure and business travellers to and from the region, as well as international student traffic to Cambridge," said Hubert Frach, Emirates divisional senior vice president, commercial operations west. As with the first service, the  second daily flight to Stansted will be operated by Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in three-classes with six private suites in first class, 42 fully-flat beds in business class and 306 seats in economy. Emirates said customers travelling from London Stansted will also have more access to destinations across its global network with convenient connection times. Brisbane, Melbourne, Male, Seychelles, Bali, Singapore, Colombo, Bangalore and Bangkok all fall within connection times of around two and half hours. The additional Dubai-Stansted flight will also double the daily cargo capacity offered by Emirates SkyCargo to a total of 40 tonnes each way.

New skills needed by region’s businesses

Young people in the region looking to build a career will need new ‘softer’ skills to succeed in a rapidly evolving job market, according to a report from Grant Thornton. The firm’s ‘People Power’ study highlights how the rise of artificial intelligence, together with high employment rates and skills shortages are changing work. Over 90 per cent of the employers questioned said they don’t currently have the skills in their organisation which they will need over the next five years. The most valuable skills for high growth businesses were technical (59%) and digital (56%) but also entrepreneurial (43%) and emotional (41%). Only a third cited academic abilities as a priority. Hazel Platt (photo), practice leader at Grant Thornton’s East of England offices, said: “The pace of technological change means employing people who can simply ‘do the job’ is not enough. Employers need creative minds to bring innovative thought and ways of doing things that will drive productivity and profitability in challenging market conditions."

See Profile Grant Thornton

Chamber plans central Suffolk initiative

Suffolk Chamber is launching a new initiative aimed at giving improved business support and representation across the Babergh and Mid-Suffolk areas of the county. A new Suffolk Chamber in Central Suffolk subsidiary has been set up to complement its lobbying, representation and business support in west and east Suffolk. It is looking to recruit businesses to a local board to create a manifesto to direct its long-term campaigning and launch next autumn. Graham Abbey, president of Suffolk Chamber, said: “We have quite a number of members across the central Suffolk area and listening to feedback felt now was the time to give them the same localised representation as other areas across the county.”

Photo (l-r): Launching in mid-Suffolk, from Suffolk Chamber and Babergh and Mid Suffolk DCs (l-r) Stephen Britt, Cllr. Nick Gowrley, Catherine Johnson, Graham Abbey, Cllr. Gerard Brewster, Cllr. John Ward, Cllr. Simon Barrett