Wednesday 12th August 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 04/06/2019

Region urged to 'fight harder' to attract direct foreign investment

Foreign direct investment in the East of England remained relatively high last year, the region is being urged to 'fight harder' to avoid losing out to other parts of the UK. Although the number of foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in the East fell to 36 in 2018 from 59 in the previous year, it remains well up on earlier years such as 2015, when the region attracted just 21 projects. Cambridge ranked as the 8th most attractive UK location for overseas projects for the second year running. Ten FDI projects were recorded in Cambridge last year, down from 14 projects in 2017, followed by Peterborough with three projects in 2018. Biggleswade, Hemel Hempstead, Lowestoft, Stamford and Thetford also secured two projects each. EY’s 2019 UK Attractiveness Survey also shows that the UK remained the number one destination for FDI in Europe in 2018 with 1,054 projects, ahead of Germany and France. The East saw most of its investment come from the US (19%) - below the UK average of 32% - whilst Japan (14%) and Germany (11%) were also significant. Meanwhile, the number of jobs secured by investments in the East of England in 2018 fell by 30 per cent from 2,835 in 2017 to 1,971. Nick Gomer, managing partner at EY in the East of England, said: “Our latest report demonstrates a mixed picture for the East of England in terms of foreign direct investment. It’s fantastic to see Cambridge as a top 10 UK location for attracting inward investment, with many other key locations in the East attracting a large number of FDI projects. However, whilst inward investment in the region remains high when comparing 2018 to years prior to 2016, a 40% year-on-year drop in the number of projects cannot be ignored. This acts as a warning sign that our region must fight harder to ensure that it’s not losing out to other UK regions such as Greater London or the South East.”

Manufacturers stay positive despite dip in export orders

East of England manufacturers were busier in the second quarter although the sector faces mixed prospects for the rest of the year after a recent weakening in export orders. Helped by recent stockpiling, output and orders along with intentions to recruit and invest were all positive in the second quarter although recruitment is expected to slow in the second half, according to a Q2 survey on the sector from Make UK and BDO.  But export orders were down sharply and are forecast to contract in the second half of the year amid growing evidence that European customers are switching their supply chains away from the UK. The survey also points to signs that Asian customers are balking at uncertainties over UK trade agreements. Charlotte Horobin, region director at Make UK in the East of England, said: “Earlier this year there was clear evidence that industry was on steroids as companies stockpiled. Underneath, however, there is growing evidence that global customers are moving away from the UK as concerns over Brexit and trade agreements continue.” Make UK is now forecasting manufacturing growth of 0.2% in 2018 and 0.8 per cent in 2020. Gdp is forecast at 1.2 per cent in 2019 and 1.6 per cent in 2020. Nationally, confidence rose among manufacturing businesses for the second month running, up 5 points to a four-month high of 21 per cent.

Separately, the share of firms in the East of England reporting that Brexit is having a negative impact business expectations rose sharply in May, jumping 15 point to a net balance of 35 per cent, according to a business barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. Firms confidence in their own business prospects was more optimistic; it stood at three per cent, albeit down nine points on the previous month. Meanwhile, fewer firms are planning to hire new staff.

£4.5 million investment at Stowmarket plant

Suffolk-based manufacturer Muntons is making a £4.5 million investment in its Stowmarket plant to increase malt extract capacity. A new 27-metre high building is being built to house a multi stage evaporator, using local design and M &E firms and companies from Europe, which will boost production by around 15 per cent. Nigel Davies, Muntons technical and sustainability director, said: “Demand for malted ingredients is at an all-time high – good news for us, but also bringing its problems, as every tonne of malt extract made is sold as fast as it is produced.” Malt has no fat or no ‘e’ numbers and has minerals and nutrients which appeal to health-conscious consumers. The company plans to recruit five more production operatives over coming months.


Cambridge companies outperform in uncertain times

Cambridge-based companies are continuing to grow faster than the UK economy although the pace of expansion at firms around the city has slowed since 2016. Data from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Business Research shows that companies in a 20 mile radius of the city grew their global turnover by 8.7% in the year to April 2018, down from 15.8% in 2016. Global employment at firms around the city grew by 4.1%, down from 8.5%. Matthew Bullock (right), vice-chairman of Cambridge Ahead -which funds the data - and master of St Edmund’s College, said: “Last year there was clearly a bounce after the initial Brexit vote, which has now fallen back. However, even in this prolonged period of uncertainty, Cambridge continues to perform strongly.” Knowledge intensive firms around the city, continued to grow at a high pace with turnover rising 11.4% and employment 4.9%. The largest knowledge-intensive sectors IT and telecoms, life sciences and healthcare and high-tech manufacturing, each accounted for over £4.5b turnover. Growth was strong in IT and telecoms (turnover up 14.8% and employment 12.6%) and was helped by employment growth at Aveva following its merger with a division of France-based Schneider Electric. High-tech manufacturing saw turnover growth at 13.7% although life sciences turnover(up 7.5% and employment growth (2.7%) was slower. Meanwhile, the number of companies employing over 250 employees has risen by 64 per cent to 113 over the last six years, and the number of medium-sized firms is up by 40 per cent  to 426 companies.

See Profile Cambridge Cluster Map

Consultation launched at Port of Lowestoft

Associated British Ports has launched a consultation on a master plan for the Port of Lowestoft which it owns, setting out its vision for growth and development at the port until 2036 and inviting stakeholders to have a say. The Port of Lowestoft’s location makes it ideal to service major offshore wind developments, including the East Anglia One project, which will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm when it starts operation in 2020. Lowestoft also has a growing role in the UK’s oil & gas and agribulk sectors and its tenants including Peterson UK, a major logistics and service provider. ABP short sea ports director Andrew Harston said: “Standing back, one clear message comes out of our Master Plan – that the Port of Lowestoft has a bright future ahead with real development opportunities, not least due to its location directly opposite major continental ports and its excellent links to UK’s transport network.” However he added: “ABP has long voiced concerns about the construction of the proposed Lake Lothing Third Crossing which will have a significant negative impact on port operations and marine safety if it crosses the centre of the port.” Over the last two years ABP has invested more than £3 million in developing the Port of Lowestoft and its infrastructure.

Funding programmes at Growth Hub help create over 2,700 jobs

New Anglia LEP’s business support programme has reached two major milestones, approving its 700th business support grant and engaging with 8,000 businesses through the New Anglia Growth Hub. Since 2014, the Growth Hub’s team of expert advisers have engaged with 8,000 businesses, giving more than 40,000 hours of face to face support. Most of the 700 businesses supported with grant funding applied to the LEP’s two flagship funds, the Growing Business Fund and Small Grant Scheme. These programmes have approved more than £28m in grants, helping to create more than 2,700 jobs and leverage £182m in private investment. The 700th grant was awarded to Ipswich-based TTV Racing, a precision engineering firm supplying components for the automotive industry. Nigel Best, manager of the New Anglia Growth Hub, said: “Since the launch of the Growth Hub five years ago, we have been able to help thousands of businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk grow and prosper. With funding secured for the next few years, we look forward to seeing and helping many more businesses on their journey to growth.”

See Profile New Anglia Growth Hub

German group takes control of Essex-based filtration business

The owners of a filtration specialist Bollfilter UK, based in Tolleshunt D’Arcy in Essex, have recently completed a managed exit of their firm in deal involving a sale to a German buyer, brokered and advised by Scrutton Bland. Managing director John Dow and financial director Veronica Brown - operating as Geedon - have sold their controlling 75 per cent share of the business to manufacturer and 25 per cent shareholder Boll & Kirch Filterbau GmbH. Scrutton Bland partner Luke Morris, who led the corporate finance team on the deal, said: “Over the years John and Veronica have built up Bollfilter UK Ltd as an exceptionally well-managed and very successful business in the field in which it operates.” He said the sale: "…. provides John and Veronica with a managed retirement from business, provides the existing UK management team continuity with a partner that is already known to them, and allows the German partner Boll & Kirch Filterbau GmbH to provide controlling support to the UK operation.” Bollfilter UK specialises in the filtration processes of liquids and gases for industries such as shipbuilding and engine constructions, steel, automotive and chemical industries.

See Profile Scrutton Bland

Law firm advises fast-growing group on acquisitions

Bury-based solicitors Greene & Greene recently advised longstanding client Nexus Group on its acquisition of two new companies, Credit and Business Finance, a specialist trade credit broker based in Herts and Capital Risks MGA, a London-based warranty and indemnity MGA. Founded in 2008, Nexus Group operates in nine countries and has over 200 employees. It is doubling in size every 18 months and has recently been ranked as number 32 in The Sunday Times BDO Profit Tract 100 league table. Greene & Greene has been working with Nexus for over 10 years and its team advising Nexus was headed up by mergers & acquisition specialists, Simon Ratcliffe, Andrew Cooper and Natalie Stoter (photo, right) at the firm’s office in Bury. Simon Ratcliffe said: “We are extremely pleased by the longstanding relationship that we have with Nexus. The company continues to grow year on year and we have many more projects in the pipeline that we are working on with Colin Thompson and his team.”

Photo: Simon Ratcliffe, Andrew Cooper and Natalie Stoter

Profile Greene & Greene

Head of client services and compliance appointed at law firm

Virginia Bevan has recently been appointed as head of client services and compliance at Thompson Smith and Puxon (TSP) Solicitors. Her career began in legal finance over 20 years ago and until recently was mainly with City-based law firms, merging into the area of legal compliance. After 2010 she ran a legal finance consultancy business advising on both operational and compliance issues and has developed an expertise in anti-money laundering and legal compliance. Virginia Bevan (photo, right) said: “TSP is extremely well known locally, and the opportunity to become part of a local firm who emanate City professionalism is one I am delighted to be enjoying. The fact that TSP has sought to move this role into its own specialist department speaks volumes for the firm’s dedicated approach to compliance.”

TSP senior partner and the firm’s compliance officer for legal practice Mary Anne Fedeyko said: “I am sure that her expertise developed across a wide range of financial and legal compliance areas will be invaluable to the firm and I very much look forward to working with her.”

Lawyers awarded Agricultural Law Association fellowship

Ed Bellamy and Leo McMahon of law firm Birketts’ agriculture and estates team recently achieved fellowship of the Agricultural Law Association. The fellowship examination requires expertise in a whole range of legal and other issues that are relevant to agriculture and rural businesses. Jack Royall, partner and head of Birketts' agriculture and estates team, said: “This is a great achievement by Ed and Leo, who both advise a wide range of agricultural and farming clients in the region, and we offer our congratulations. It’s a challenging course that requires a high level of knowledge across all aspects of agricultural law and they join Birketts’ lawyers Sophia Key, Annabelle Rout and Rachel McKillop-Wilkin as Fellows at the ALA.”

Photo (l-r): Ed Bellamy, Leo McMahon, Sophia Key, Rachel McKillop-Wilkin and Annabelle Rout.

See Profile Birketts

Tax director appointed at firm’s Ipswich office

Dominic Carter has joined MHA Larking Gowen as tax  director to head up the tax team at the firm’s Ipswich office and support the tax advisory offering across the firm. He has 20 years’ accountancy and tax experience, having worked and qualified as a chartered accountant in regional firms in the West Midlands and North West, with a general practice and auditing background before moving into tax. Dominic Carter said: “I have worked with a wide range of businesses, from sole traders to stock market-quoted companies but my main expertise is in advising owner-managed businesses and their owners on corporate and shareholder tax issues.” He added: “Businesses in this market require holistic advice, by managing uncertainty, addressing the complexities of the tax regime, and ensuring compliance with legislation and accessing available tax reliefs, we allow business owners to get on with what they’re best at. This is about building relationships of trust. Businesses need to know their tax affairs are being managed, but they don’t need to be bombarded with technicalities.”  He also advises on stamp taxes and is a member of the Stamp Taxes Practitioners Group.

See Profile MHA Larking Gowen

Property agent moves up in Bury

The Bury St Edmunds office of property agent Barker Storey Matthews, now part of Eddisons, has moved to a new office suite in Davies House, on the town’s Hillside Business Park on Kempson Way. Having occupied the ground floor offices of Davies House as the tenant for the whole of the ten year lease term, the property agent has moved upstairs to 1,340 sq ft of first floor office space in the same building. Occular healthcare specialist, Health Intelligence is the new occupier of the ground floor offices. Simon Burton, who heads the agent’s Bury St Edmunds office, said: “The chance to remain not only on Hillside Business Park but also within the same building was fortuitous.  Our new suite has enabled us to reconfigure the available workspace to best meet the flexibility of modern office working methods.”

Record year for Suffolk self-storage business

A Suffolk self-storage business has achieved its most successful year to date, with more than 80 per cent of its units now rented out – the highest in its 14 year history. HomeStore, which is based on the Ransomes Europark in Ipswich and on the Anglian Lane Industrial Estate in Bury St Edmunds, has seen a significant increase in the number of customers using its flexible self-storage facilities over the last two years. Set up 14 years ago as part of a removals business to provide storage for home contents between moves, the company has grown steadily as more people opt for self-storage. More commercial customers are finding that the units are ideal for their business stock. Managing director Martin Tuck said: “This has been our busiest year to date, with the highest percentage of units now rented out. We have seen an increase from 60 per cent to 80 per cent of our capacity now in use. Awareness of self-storage facilities and the benefits they can deliver has grown rapidly over the last few years, particularly with people running small businesses where there is a need for a safe and secure place to store stock. We have a growing number of people operating mail order businesses, including those trading on E-Bay, who need access 24/7, as well as our reception service to receive deliveries in their absence.”

Photo ( l-r) : John Taylor, branch manager; Martin Tuck, managing director; and Sarah Bliss, assistant branch manager.

Ipswich-based agency marks 15 years of growth

Ipswich-based PR and digital agency Genesis recently marked its 15th anniversary with a party for clients, business partners and community friends at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club in Woolverstone. Established in 2004 by directors Penny and Charles Arbuthnot, the agency won gold for outstanding PR consultancy at the CIPR PRide Awards for the Anglia, Thames and Chiltern region in November 2018 and also won gold for the best corporate and business communications campaign. Penny Arbuthnot said: “Business never stands still today, but the 15th anniversary is an opportunity to pause and reflect, and to acknowledge what our team has achieved. We have invested in Genesis’ services and in our team to take the business from strength to strength, evolving from purely PR when we started in 2004 to become a full service agency for today’s digital world.” Earlier this year Genesis was named as a UK finalist in the national CIPR Excellence Awards for outstanding small consultancy and is also nominated for best public affairs campaign.

See Profile Genesis

Consultants provide project management for new sensory garden

Property and construction consultants Ingleton Wood provided technical and project management expertise for a six month project for a new sensory garden for patients at Aldeburgh and District Community Hospital. Recently opened by Nick Hulme, CEO of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, the garden was created thanks to the hospital’s League of Friends, NHS Property Services and volunteer garden team leader Anne Parsons, who fundraised for 18 months to collect over £70,000 for the project. The garden is designed for use by patients and local residents with sensory impairments or dementia, wheelchair users, caregivers, people with anxiety or depression and anyone else who would benefit.  Anni Folan-White (photo, right), partner and building services engineer at Ingleton Wood, led the team and took the structural alterations proposed through planning permission. She said: “It truly is a wonderful, relaxing beautiful space. I can’t wait to see it again when all the plants mature. We all really enjoyed being part of the process to see this garden to fruition.”

See Profile Ingleton Wood

Award hosted in newly-refurbished event centre

Wyboston Lakes Resort is hosting the UK heat of the IACC Copper Skillet Award for chefs this week in the new Rosewood suite of its newly-refurbished Woodlands Event Centre. IACC, a global community that represents more than 400 venues organising and hosting meetings, recognises the vital role that foodservice plays in conference venue operations by staging its annual Copper Skillet competition. One of Wyboston Lakes Resort’s young chefs, Leanna Bromley-Higgs, won the IACC Copper Skillet Global Chef of the Year competition in 2018 when the final was held in Philadelphia, and four of her colleagues, Alex Walton, Ben Arthurs, Kaya McGowen and Richard Higgs, will be entering this year. Louisa Watson (photo) director of marketing at Wyboston Lakes Resort, said: “It’s a great honour to host this prestigious competition at our venue just after we have completed the transformation of the event catering in our Woodlands Event Centre with the new Olive Restaurant. After researching extensively what food options conference delegates want, it will be fascinating to see the ideas and creativity of top UK industry chefs in tackling this challenge.”

Retirement after 50 years at Suffolk housebuilder

Award-winning Suffolk housebuilder Bennett Homes is wishing Denise Isaacson a happy retirement after 50 years’ cumulative service at the Nowton-based business. Starting in April 1968 at the age of 15 and, with only a short break in 1980 for the birth of her daughter Anouska, Denise has spent her entire working life with Bennett Homes. She married Kevin in 1972 who also worked for Bennett Homes until his untimely death two years ago. Denise’s first role was as office junior on a weekly wage of £4, after which she was promoted to secretary to the sales manager, then secretary to the managing director and for the last ten years, customer care co-ordinator. Edward Parker, managing director of Bennett Homes. said: “Denise has been an incredible asset to us over the last 50 years and we are extremely grateful for her loyalty and hard work. “

Photo: Edward Parker, Managing Director of Bennett Homes with Denise Isaacson.

Cambridge college unveils blue plaque in memory of intrepid sisters

Westminster College, Cambridge held a formal unveiling of a blue plaque at its open day last week in memory of twin sisters Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson who donated the strategic site on which the college is located. They were also biblical scholars, linguists and intrepid explorers. The ceremony was carried out by Professor Janet Soskice, professor of philosophical theology, faculty of divinity at Cambridge University and an emeritus fellow of Jesus College. The Blue Plaque, awarded by Cambridge City Council, is only the seventh to be given to women. The occasion also marked the launch of a new Association of Alumni and Friends of the College and was attended by more than 160 former students and friends. Agnes and Margaret were brought up as Presbyterians in Irvine, Ayrshire, inherited a fortune and taught themselves 12 languages. Following the donation of the Cambridge site, Westminster College relocated from its original base in London in 1899. Today Westminster College is a theological college, resource centre and research hub for the United Reformed Church (URC). It is also used for training in the denomination, including flexible learning in blocks of a week, which was introduced recently. Rev Neil Thorogood, principal of Westminster College said: “This is an important day for our community as we recognise the contribution made by Agnes and Margaret not only in providing the site for our college, but also the incredible story of their achievements at a time when women were not considered pioneers in their field.

Photo: At the unveiling, Professor Janet Soskice and Rev Nigel Uden, chair of governors.