Thursday 19th September 2019
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 12/06/2019

Brighter times on the horizon for region’s private sector

Demand in the East of England's private sector stabilised in May and employment increased for the first time this year whilst the 12 month outlook for activity also brightened, according to a key survey of purchasing managers. After falling for the previous three months, the volume of new business won by private sector firms was unchanged. The NatWest East of England business activity index rose to 49.7 in May from 48.8 in April - signalling a fractional decline in output. The improvement in the region was in keeping with national trends and firms in the region saw backlogs of work fall for the seventh month running. Having shed jobs in the first four months of the year, private sector employers recruited at a faster rate than the long-run average in May, driven mainly by service providers. Moreover expectations on output strengthened for the third month running to the highest level  since July 2018, partly linked to firms’ new projects coming on stream. Average prices charged for goods and services by East of England private sector firms rose at the strongest rate in four months.


Chain of deals points to ‘strong demand’ for space in Cambs

Property consultancy Carter Jonas has completed a chain of commercial property deals in Cambs which it says demonstrates the strong demand for business space in the region. The agent has agreed the sale of Aqua House (right) in Swavesey for Imtech - a 2.91-acre site with 21,427 sq ft of space - to Pigeon Investment Management, which has pre-let the space to ENVEA UK. Carter Jonas has been retained to market a yard as open storage.  Carter Jonas has also found a new refurbished office space for the former occupier of Aqua House at Buckingway Business Park in Swavesey. Ben Le Coq, associate, Carter Jonas, said: “The chain of deals we have been involved with in Swavesey demonstrates the strong appetite for business space in Cambridgeshire, which is largely due to a significant lack of supply.”

Law firm advises on print group’s expansion

Law firm Birketts has advised Herts-based print provider Vision Group (Holdings) on its aquisition of Abbey Business Equipment. Established in 1985 by joint chairman Allen Bond and Earl Robinson, Vision has developed a nationwide office network to become one of the largest independent specialist providers of managed print, managed document and IT services. Adrian Seagers (photo, right) who led the deal for Birketts with support from Stephanie Newman, said: “The acquisition is part of Vision’s strategy to grow its business in the UK.”

Phil Bond, chief executive officer at Vision, said: “Throughout the acquisition the team at Birketts was transparent and upfront about timetables, processes, outcomes and costs. They understood our requirements and provided certainty throughout.”

See Profile Birketts

Cambridge-based biotech group raises funds for expansion

Cambridge-based Sphere Fluidics, which is commercializing single cell analysis systems has closed an additional investment of £2.2 million, securing a total of £3.7 million. The funding will be used as working capital for the company’s Cyto-Mine® Single Cell Analysis System, to expand its UK facility and open a new US sales office and demo lab in California. The funding round was led by Greenwood Way Capital. Frank F Craig, CEO, Sphere Fluidics, said: “Due to our over-subscribed investment round earlier this year, we decided to add on a second tranche to accommodate the additional interest. We are currently recruiting and looking at prospective new facilities in the UK and California to support the growth of our commercial and scientific activities."

Milestone at landmark Ipswich development set to boost regeneration

A milestone has been reached on the landmark £30 million Winerack development on the Ipswich Waterfront, where the first collection of apartments has been completed revealing its finished red brick and steel façade. The project will deliver 150 homes, over 5,000 sq ft of commercial space and a high-tech car stacker parking system. Ipswich Wharf Developments re-started the development, investing £10 million after it had been left half-built since the financial crash of 2008. The scheme attracted £15 million from Homes England’s Home Building Fund and a £5 million loan from New Anglia LEP's Growing Places Fund in a unique financial set up between public and private investors to complete the project. Minister for local growth, Jake Berry MP, said: “With the creation over 5,000 square feet of commercial space along the Ipswich Waterfront and 56 new jobs to the Regatta Quay area by the end of 2020, the project is on track to support wider regeneration and attract wider investment into the town.”

Doug Field, chair of New Anglia LEP, said: “We’re seeing a renaissance happening in Ipswich with sites across the town shaping, reviving and connecting places. Through the Ipswich Vision partnership we have prioritised investments and initiatives that will have a positive impact on wider parts of the town benefiting residents, businesses and visitors. Investment in the Winerack on the Waterfront, The Maltings near the train station and Cornhill in the centre are boosting investor confidence and attracting interest nationally."

Ports group invests in electric vehicles fleet

Associated British Ports has invested more than £120,000 in a new fleet of electric vans for use at the ports of Lowestoft, Ipswich and King’s Lynn. The new six ‘Renault Kangoo ZE’ electric vans are part of ABP’s vehicle replacement programme to make operations more environmentally sustainable by reducing emissions. Four will be at the Port of Ipswich, with  two being shared between the ports of King’s Lynn and Lowestoft. They will be able to travel between each of the three East Anglian ports on a single charge. Andrew Harston, ABP short sea ports director, said: “The introduction of this new fleet of electric vehicles to our East Anglian ports is part of our five year plan to develop sustainable sources of power and reduce our overall carbon footprint. The new vans will reduce emissions and help improve local air quality, whilst also helping us to operate more efficiently.” In 2018, the Port of Ipswich generated 970MWh of electricity from its solar panel installations, which would be enough to power 300 electric vehicles for an average of 10,000 miles a year.

Photo (l-r): ABP's head of environment Alan Tinline, engineering co-ordinator Ricky Edwards and engineering resources manager Brain Read.

Architects in running for UK design prize

Norwich, Cambridge and London-based architects Feilden+Mawson is in the running for a top UK design prize for its work in revitalising a rundown 1960s London overspill housing project in Norfolk. The completion of phases 2-4 of Hillington Square (photo, right) , a 230-home King’s Lynn housing estate, has been praised as a national example of successful regeneration. Since 2014 an F+M team led by partner Emily Barnston has been involved as technical delivery architect to  building contractors Lovell Partnership. In October, F+M team members will be joined by Hillington Square owner Freebridge Community Housing at the RICS awards night in London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel. The project, which has cost £24m so far, will vie with 12 other regional winners for the accolade of most inspirational regeneration initiative in the UK.

Legal event to explain the language of Brexit

Ipswich-based law firm Prettys is holding a business academy this week on ‘deconstructing the language of Brexit’. It will look at the interpretation of the language in contracts and apply it to some of the words used around the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Senior associate Andrew Kinnison (photo, right) said that since the referendum was held in 2016, there have been a number of buzzwords and phrases such as ‘article 50’ and ‘withdrawal agreement’ which risk causing confusion. “It is important to say that the referendum was advisory and in no way a contractual document. The principles that I discuss on contract interpretation are being used by analogy.” Andrew Kinnison will be sharing his knowledge at Prettys’ Business Academy on Thursday June 13 at Hylands House in Chelmsford from 8am-10.30am. Colleague Graham Mead will also be looking at how to avoid making a dispute worse during litigation.

See Profile Prettys

Polls shows firms taking steps to support staff’s mental health

A poll of over 100 HR professionals taken at a conference in the region last week showed that 94 per cent are taking positive steps to support their staff’s mental health. But only 23 per cent of delegates saw stress as the biggest issue in the workplace at the conference, which was hosted jointly by Ashtons HR Consulting, Ashtons Legal and recruitment specialists HAYS. The session at the event at Centre Parcs in Elveden Forest that attracted the most feedback questions was around the rights of workers from outside the UK to continue to be employed here post-Brexit.  Antony Sloan, CEO of Ashtons HR Consulting and HR director at Ashtons Legal and who chaired the conference, said : “As an organisation - and as just individuals operating in modern society - stress is one of the biggest factors on our health, yet mental health concerns are still often taboo. One in six members of the UK work force experiences stress, anxiety or depression, yet worryingly 19 per cent of staff feel that they are unable to speak to managers about how they are feeling.”

See Profile Ashtons Legal