Friday 19th April 2019
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 12/04/2019

Business activity slips but firms hopeful on 2020

Private sector business activity in the region fell in March for the first time since November 2012 but the downturn was slight and firms remain confident that output will rise by this time next year, helped by new products and a Brexit resolution. The NatWest East of England business activity index fell below the no-change mark of 50.0 in March, to 49.7. New business fell for the second month this year as demand weakened in the services sector and the level of outstanding work fell further, prompting firms to cut staff for the third month running. Workforces fell at a slightly slower rate in March and job losses were more common at manufacturers. Although private sector firms in the region believe output will rise by March 2020 sentiment remains relatively weak. John Maude, NatWest Midlands & East regional board, said: “Although only marginal, the decline in output was accompanied by lower new business, a third successive month of job shedding and a fifth straight monthly contraction in backlogs of work, underlining the overall weakness of business conditions. Consequently, output expectations for the next 12 months remained among the weakest levels seen since the forward-looking series began in 2012.”

5G could give region’s economy a £1.3 billion boost

The introduction of a 5G mobile network could boost the East of England economy by up to £1.3bn pa by 2025 although the opportunity could be missed as business leaders don’t know enough about the technology, according to research from Barclays Corporate Banking. A new report 5G: A Transformative Technology says that an ‘optimistic scenario’ involving a faster rollout of 5G and better takeup among businesses and consumers, could mean a boost to revenues across the UK, particularly for distribution (£3.6bn), manufacturing (£2bn), professional services (£1.1bn) and business services (£1bn). Mobile providers are starting to bring in 5G capabilities on a large scale this year and bidding for licenses opened last year. 5G can offer peak data rates 20 times faster than 4G and paves the way for artificial intelligence, robotics and large-scale Internet of Things usage. The Barclays report shows that 30 per cent of businesses in East of England now benefit from 4G and ultrafast broadband. But just 42 per cent know how their business can make the most of 5G and only 13 per cent are looking at harnessing  the new technology. Ray O’Donoghue (photo, right), managing director corporate banking, said: “The rollout of 5G offers a huge opportunity for the East of England. …To ensure the East of England can realise the full potential of an accelerated rollout, the Government, mobile operators and other corporate partners – including financial institutions – have a job to do in order to raise awareness amongst businesses so they can harness 5G.”

See Profile Barclays

Briefly…

Utility invests to keep water flowing in Norwich

Anglian Water has started installing a new filtration system, the largest in Europe, at its water treatment works in Norwich in a £36 million scheme which forms part of a £500 million investment programme the utility is making in the region between 2015 and 2020. Norwich is one of the UK’s fastest-growing cities but lies in one of the country's driest counties and the new system, which will be completed later this year, will supplement the existing treatment process. Regan Harris from Anglian Water said: "Norwich is a rapidly growing, thriving city and a regional economic powerhouse. Water helps power that economy, so it's essential there's enough to go around but we also care for the environment and want to ensure we're protecting it."

New air service from Stansted to Copenhagen launched

Scandinavian Airlines has returned to London Stansted with the launch of a new service to Copenhagen which will operate five times per week, increasing to a daily return service from July. Mats Sigurdson, London Stansted’s aviation director, said: “It’s great news SAS has returned to London Stansted with the launch of this new service to Copenhagen. The service will not only provide passengers from London and the East of England with even more choice to an exciting European destination, I’m also sure the route will prove to be really popular with business passengers from Copenhagen looking for great in-flight service plus quick and convenient access to the London-Stansted-Cambridge economic corridor.” The new route adds to Scandanvian Airlines’ existing Heathrow service.

Meanwhile, the total number of passengers passing through London Stansted in the 12 months to March 2019 increased by 8.6 per cent on the previous year to 28.39 million.

Lawyer urges action to save the high street

A lawyer in the region says it is time for the government to act on the findings in its own High Street and Town Centres 2030 report or risk losing the high street, as we know it, for good. Claire Barritt (photo, right) a senior associate at law firm Prettys, point to various factors behind the demise of traditional stores including the growth in online shopping, high premises costs, out-of-town retail parks and lack of cheap car parking. She said: “The government needs to deal with the business rates conundrum. High street retailers are paying larger bills compared to the mega retailers operating out of warehouses. Offsetting the loss of business rates income could be achieved by introducing suitable corporation tax bands so that higher turnover mega businesses could help make up for the reduction in business rates payable for high street locations and produce a fairer result for all retailers.” Investment landlords could also offer more flexible leases at more realistic rents, with tenant break clauses to encourage occupation of empty units. Charity shops could be limited and more non-retail businesses, such as gyms, play areas, hotels and student accommodation could be encouraged to help diversity. She added: “It is important to educate consumers on the impact high streets have on local jobs, the economy and the environment. They need to understand if they don’t use it, they may lose it.”

See Profile Prettys

Commercial property agency in merger

Regional commercial property agency Barker Storey Matthews is merging with Eddisons, a subsidiary of Begbies Traynor plc, to form a national practice offering a UK-wide consultancy. Eddisons partner Anthony Spencer said: “I am very pleased to welcome the BSM team into Eddisons; it widens our geographical coverage to twenty offices around the UK and increases the number of clients. This is our fifth Eddisons acquisition since we joined the group and we continue to seek opportunities for further growth, both organically and by strategic acquisition.”

Steve Hawkins, managing director at BSM, said: “Through our talented team of people, Barker Storey Matthews has developed a market leading reputation for delivering quality property advice across the Eastern region. BSM was recently ranked the overall winner for Eastern England in the EG Deals Competition 2018 for commercial property agents and the acquisition will see the  39-strong team integrate with the current Eddisons team.

Photo: Steve Hawkins, managing director of BSM (left) with James Foster, finance director, Eddisons (right)'

Bury firm named house builder of the year for fifth time

Bennett Homes, based in Nowton near Bury St Edmunds has been named House Builder of the Year 2019 by the National Federation of Builders, the fifth time the family-run company has won the award. The judges were particularly impressed by its Chancellor’s Wood development at Cringleford, Norfolk, where it has created five homes to blend with the architecture of the local area. Edward Parker, managing director of Bennett Homes, said: “I am delighted to be collecting this House Builder of the Year award on behalf of Bennett Homes – for the fifth time. The accolade is very much a team achievement and I look forward to sharing it with all our staff without whose efforts I wouldn’t be standing here. Winning this award is very important – it validates all the work we do as a family-run business and to have national industry recognition is a great honour.”

Richard Beresford, chief executive NFB, added: “The NFB Awards showcase all that is special about our industry. …The entries we received this year demonstrate the breadth of skills and talent that our industry has. Huge congratulations to Bennett Homes on their win in this prestigious awards programme.”

Photo (l-r): co-host Nina Hossain, ITN broadcaster and journalist; Edward Parker, managing director, Colin Parker, operations director; Richard Brannigan, Lorica Insurance Broker (sponsor); and co-host Robert Llewellyn, actor.

Go-ahead for new housing scheme in Peterborough

CALA Homes has been given the go ahead to develop 350 new homes, at  Hampton Vale  south west of Peterborough. It will be surrounded by Haddon Lake and provide  two, three, four and five-bed homes. Phillip Wright, head of planning and design at CALA Homes North Home Counties, said: “We are excited to begin work onsite in May this year, with the first homes expected to be released for sale in January 2020.”

Peterborough business property sold

Phase one and two of Papyrus Business Parc in Werrington near Peterborough have been sold to Crossacre Properties by Savills for NPW. Offers in excess of £2 million were sought. The space totals nearly 19,000 sq ft and included modern offices and a 9,120 sq ft industrial unit currently let to Vindis Group. A further six tenants occupy the additional office space. One suite remains vacant at a quoting rent of £10,000 pa. Edward Gee at Savills Peterborough said: “Papyrus Business Parc provided the purchaser with an excellent opportunity to acquire a good quality modern scheme with a diverse mix of office and industrial tenants, alongside strong rental income and future asset management potential. We expect to receive considerable interest in the last remaining vacant office suite.”

Dutch science parks developer acquires Cambridge building

Kadans Science Partner, a science parks developer and operator from The Netherlands, is taking its first step in the Cambridge and UK life sciences market by acquiring ThinkSpace the B900 building on the Babraham Research Campus from Imperial College. The fully let property houses two companies (Abzena and Bicycle Therapeutics) working in the cancer and immunology therapeutics fields. Kadans’ has 20 properties across 9 campus locations, serving more than 230 tenants and is working on securing new projects in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK.

Cambridge start-up among Europe’s fastest growing firms

Cambridge-based Velocity Commerce, an online retail specialist, has been named one of the fastest- growing companies in Europe in the latest FT 1000 report. With an absolute revenue growth of 1,187 per cent and revenue CAGR (2014-17) of 134.3 per cent, Velocity Commerce is the 92nd fastest growing company in Europe and one of 27 UK firms in the top 100. Co-founders Eddie Latham and PJ Scott set up Velocity Commerce in 2013 to help brands build their online presence and increase revenues.

Chartered accountants firm takes on national association brand

East Anglian chartered accountants, Larking Gowen, has changed its name to MHA Larking Gowen, reflecting a decision to take on the branding of MHA, its professional national association. MHA was founded in 2010 and is made up of regional accountancy firms with over 45 offices across England, Scotland and Wales. The association members share resources and expertise, which helps them deliver a wide-reaching and stronger service to clients. MHA is a member of Baker Tilly International, an accountancy network across 145 territories. Jon Woolston, managing partner of MHA Larking Gowen, said: "We see this as an essential step to take now to ensure that as MHA continues to evolve, we can be at the centre of that development." He added: "With all the issues around Brexit, what better time to show that we have a well-respected international offering. Having the tenth largest global network on tap is a great regional unique selling point for the firm."

See Profile MHA Larking Gowen

Law firm enters teams to raise funds for the wounded

Law firm Birketts has entered nine teams into this year’s Cumbrian Challenge in aid of Walking With The Wounded, which raises funds for the re-education and re-training of wounded servicemen and women to help them find a career. The Cumbrian Challenge 2019, now in its seventh year, is an annual flagship fundraising event and takes place in Grasmere on Saturday 18 May. There are three potential routes,‘The Peak’ (3 peaks, 16km, 600m ascent),’The  Tough’ (6 peaks, 25km, 1,150m ascent) and ‘The Tougher’ (9 peaks, 32km 1,650m ascent). Nigel Farthing, partner and sponsor of the CSR committee at Birketts, said: “As a past participant I know first-hand that the Cumbrian Challenge provides a huge personal development opportunity for all those involved; team building, morale and fitness, while raising much needed funds for a fantastic cause. It is particularly pleasing to see team members representing all four of our offices. Of the nine teams from Birketts, six will be tackling ‘The Tough’ and three teams are testing themselves against ‘The Tougher’.”

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Promotion at Norwich-based solicitors

Norwich-based law firm Cozens-Hardy has promoted Claire Nelson from solicitor to associate solicitor. She joined the firm in 2014 as a trainee solicitor and qualified into the private client team in July 2016. Claire advises on Wills, powers of attorney, trusts and estate administration and inheritance tax planning. She is currently an affiliate member of Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and is studying for the diploma in trusts and estates. Michelle Collins, partner and head of Cozens-Hardy private client department, said: “Claire has really come into her own as a private client solicitor since starting with the firm five years ago. Her ambition, coupled with technical abilities and highly approachable personality, have been quite rightly reflected in her promotion to the position of associate in the firm.”

See Profile Cozens-Hardy

New partner to head risk and assurance team

Scrutton Bland has strengthened its audit team with the appointment of Paul Goddard as risk and assurance partner. He has been with Scrutton Bland since 2001 and has a large portfolio of internal audit contracts across the region and beyond. He specialises in providing targeted assurance advice to clients of all sizes and has an expertise in internal audit services for the education sector. Jason Fayers, managing partner, said: “This appointment takes our partner team up to fifteen and Paul will be our first partner to head up the risk and assurance department which has developed and grown in recent years. In Scrutton Bland’s centenary year it is terrific to promote a member of staff who has also trained with us....”

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Students win regional round of competition to encourage entrepreneurs

Three Cambridge University undergraduates have won the regional round of the Barclays Local Genius Challenge, a competition to encourage budding entrepreneurs to design tech ideas that could make a difference to local communitues. The students pitched their idea of Connecting Communities as an app (CoCo) that coordinates and promotes opportunities and support in local areas. The idea is the brainchild of Rebekah Hinton, Rahma Alfarsy and Philippa Sayers.

New client wins for Norwich-based agency

Norwich-based agency Creative Sponge has secured three client wins in competitive pitches including creative projects for the UK operations of two global businesses and a new website for Park Farm Hotel in Norfolk. The client wins come as the agency has unveiled a new website with a ‘creativity that moves people’ brand proposition. “This is more than simply giving the agency a new lick of paint, it’s about re-establishing it as being able to help businesses succeed and reach objectives, providing them with a competitive edge,” said Creative Sponge founder Alex Tosh (photo). “The ethos behind the new proposition is moving people. We use a mix of creativity, data, and research to move hearts and minds. We want to connect with people emotionally, to influence them. Do this successfully and we help our clients overcome challenges and move their businesses forward." He added that the new branding style had already been used in the successful pitches.

Meanwhile, Creative Sponge has added to its studio team with appointment of Ellie Morgan as UX Designer. She has previously held digital marketing, e-commerce and other UX roles, is skilled in developing digital strategies designed to result in conversions, growth and measurable ROI. Creative Sponge employs 15 people, and has offices in Norwich and London and clients include Warner Brothers, Eat Natural, Imperial War Museums, University of East Anglia, and AST.

See Profile Creative Sponge

PR and communications agency shortlisted for awards

Ipswich-based regional PR and communications agency Genesis has been shortlisted for the national title of outstanding small PR consultancy of the year at the 2019 Chartered Institute of Public Relations Excellence Awards. Genesis is the only agency from the East of England in the category. The agency, which is marking its 15th anniversary this year, has also been shortlisted for public affairs campaign of the year, for its central government lobbying work. Penny Arbuthnot, director at Genesis, said: “We’re overjoyed to have made it to the finals, competing against other global and London-based PR agencies. Our whole team work tirelessly for our clients so credit must go to them.”  Genesis won five awards at the 2018 CIPR Anglia, Thames and Chiltern Regional Awards and was listed in the top 40 PR agencies outside London by PR Week.

See Profile Genesis PR

Cambridge college unveils new corporate events space

Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge is unveiling innovative new facilities for corporate entertaining – both during the summer months and for Christmas celebrations. For the first time, the college is offering summer garden parties and Christmas joiner parties at its new events space, Acropolis At Caius. Located in the gardens of the college’s West Road site in the city, Acropolis At Caius is a 2,150 sq ft marquee structure which will be available from July 2019 for a 15-month period whilst some of the college’s kitchen and dining facilities around the Old Courts Main Hall are refurbished. Named for its architectural shape and multiple glass sides around its linked hexagonal structures, the Acropolis space will provide views into the gardens and can seat up to 140 on round tables for dinner, up to 100 cabaret style and 180 theatre style. It is ideal for smaller companies and organisations looking to celebrate but not large enough to host their own event. Eve Stupart, conference manager at Gonville & Caius, said: “Launching our new events space is an exciting initiative and enables us to offer summer parties with the surrounding gardens providing a perfect backdrop for drinks receptions and outdoor events. Later in the year, Acropolis At Caius will be a stunning and novel setting for Christmas parties, both private events and joiner party nights which have been difficult to find in recent years. “

Photo: The Events Team (l-r): Simon Gascoyne, deputy conference manager; Eve Stupart, conference & events manager; Laura Webb, conference coordinator; and Christophe Benedetti, deputy catering manager.