Tuesday 16th July 2019
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 19/06/2019

Surge in equity investment in the region

Equity investment in growing East of England companies more than doubled last year, helped by growing investor interest in tech companies around Cambridge. The increase came as a record £6.7bn of equity finance was invested into UK SMEs during the year and as London’s dominance in the sector is waning. According to the British Business Bank’s small business equity tracker report, some 41 per cent of equity finance was secured by companies outside the capital, up seven points since 2017. The East of England led the shift with investment in the region’s firms increasing by 118 per cent from the previous year.  Thirty nine deals were announced in the Cambridge city area,with software businesses proving the most popular for investment. Nationally, tech businesses accounted for 44 per cent (£3bn) of equity investment in 2018, a rise of a quarter from 2017. The report also found that the UK venture capital sector has grown faster than the US over the last decade and that since 2016 the UK has had a higher number of VC deals relative to gdp than the US.

However the report also showed that although the average equity deal size in the UK rose 11 per cent to £4.5 million last year, the total number of equity finance deals fell six per cent , with the largest decline seen at the seed stage. Keith Morgan, CEO at the British Business Bank, said: “We are particularly pleased to see a 29 per cent increase in investment outside of London. The British Business Bank continues to work to address regional imbalances in access to investment to ensure smaller businesses across the UK can access the equity finance they need to fulfil their growth potential.”

Concern over rising consumer debt levels in the region

The number of adults in the East of England worried about their level of debt has jumped to 38 per cent from 25 per cent in April last year, according to a survey by R3. Meanwhile, one in five adults in the region do not have any savings – a worry at a time of rising consumer credit -  and nearly a third of adults in the East often or sometimes struggle to get to payday. R3 Eastern chair Mark Upton, a partner at Ensors Chartered Accountants in East Anglia, said: “The picture painted by our research of people’s personal finances in the region is a concerning one. Unemployment rates are at a record low, but with a significant number of adults reporting a lack of savings, it appears that many people’s levels of financial resilience are lower than they should be. The figures on the proportion of adults who say they struggle to payday back this up. R3 strongly advises anyone who feels concerned about their levels of debt to seek advice from a qualified advisor.”

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Cambridge biotech group raises £550k for expansion

Cambridge-based biotech group Qkine, has closed a further round of investment. The £550k funding round was led by Cambridge Enterprise and five angel investors – who all made initial seed investments in April 2018.  Joining the original investors is biotech entrepreneur and founder member of Cambridge Angels, Dr Andy Richards. Qkine is a specialist manufacturer of proteins for stem cell, organoid and regenerative medicine applications and the investment will enable it to set up a UK manufacturing base at Cambridge Science Park, expand its research team and develop its R&D pipeline. Dr Andy Richards said :"Catherine (Elton) (photo, right) and team have done a great job at Qkine, I am excited to join their investors in this round as they move to their new facility, scale up their team, extend their R&D pipeline and expand their commercial ambitions. The need for quality and reproducibility in stem cell biology and exciting new areas such as organoids is driving a growing market that Qkine is uniquely positioned to satisfy." Qkine has also appointed Dr Christine Martin, investment manager (life sciences), Cambridge Enterprise to the board.

Shipping and international trade team buoyed by new hire

Law firm Birketts has appointed Terry O’Regan as a legal director to its shipping and international trade team. He joins Birketts’ Ipswich office, working with one of the three teams that form part of Birketts' award-winning transport and logistics team, which was recognised by the Legal 500 UK Awards 2019. Terry O’Regan has thirty years of commercial knowledge with arbitration experience in the energy, trade, marine and maritime law sectors gained in private practice and in-house roles. He has been selected as chair for Lloyd’s Maritime Academy and to address the floor at the New York Maritime Association and is one of only six accredited speakers on international trade to one of the world's leading banks. With a reputation for acting for clients in complex, high value matters of international trade, shipping and insurance, he has wide experience representing a broad range of traders, shippers and oil companies. Nicholas Woo, head of Birketts’ shipping and international trade team, said: “With our reputation for the quality of our service and client care growing by the day, we are certain that Terry’s extensive experience and skill will benefit clients and colleagues alike.”

Separately, Birketts has been shortlisted in the legal team of the year category at this year’s EG Awards.

See Profile Birketts

Crystal glass group sparkles with £4.2 million contract

Southend-based crystal glass manufacturer Glasstronics has won its biggest contract in 20 years with a £4.2 million deal to supply a furnace to a new Portuguese customer with support from the Department for International Trade and UK Export Finance. The firm will build and supply a custom-made furnace for Vista Alegre Atlantis to make its own crystal glass and could potentially increase its £1 million turnover to £4 million within the next year. The family-run business started trading overseas in 1998 and now exports to six countries including Ireland, France, Belgium, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Egypt. Around 95 per cent of all sales are to international customers. Graham Brooks founder and managing director at Glasstronics, said: “The contract with Vista Alegre Atlantis is one of our most significant contracts since my wife and I founded the business in 1989. We were chosen to provide the furnace because of our specialist knowledge in small size, high-end crystal glass melting.”

Investment management group opens Ipswich office

Bury-based Beckett Investment Management Group has opened a new office in Ipswich. The firm has been trading from its head office in Bury since 1988 and has seen its team of advisers grow by 50 per cent in recent years. Director Gavin Wood said: “Our consultants have been helping people in the Ipswich area for many years, and the feedback we’ve received from our clients and professional partners has encouraged us to have a permanent presence. Not only has this improved the way in which we provide our service, it also demonstrates our commitment to the local area.” Becketts was recently ranked number 12 in the Top 100 UK Financial Advisers.

European award for Norwich based business advisory specialist

MHA Larking Gowen corporate finance partner James Lay has been named as High Achiever 2019 for the European region at last week’s Mindshop annual conference for his work advising businesses on maximising their potential. Mindshop supports over 1,000 advisors and business leaders globally. It was founded in 1994 and has hubs in Australia, the US and Europe. “Our objective is to provide clients with the latest thinking in how to grow their businesses, maximising profits, making best use of time, and opening up the potential that so many business owners are sitting on,” said James Lay. “We provide clarity and objectivity to what can at first appear a rather daunting process. Mindshop helps us do that."

See Profile MHA Larking Gowen

Recycling group provides skips to help charity

Sackers, based near Ipswich, is using waste and recycling to raise funds for St Elizabeth Hospice after becoming a 30th partner in March and pledging to raise £3,000 for the charity this year. Skips with the St Elizabeth logo have been produced for Sackers, to contribute to fundraising efforts. When the skips are hired by customers, 10 per cent of the skip hire value will go to the charity. Each skip will generate a minimum £20 donation so, they will only need to be rented 150 times to hit the £3,000 target. Nigel Slinn, commercial director at Sackers said: “We delivered 5,448 skips last year so this shouldn’t be hard to achieve as long as people know about it but once they start sitting on driveways it should gather some pace. If this is successful, we hope to roll this out across a couple of other charities too”. CB Skips Services has provided the first two skips for the campaign, including refurbing and the branding. Sackers has also provided a free skip on site for St Elizabeth’s visitors to deposit old metal waste.

Photo(l-r): Nigel Slinn (Sackers), Liz Baldwin (St Elizabeth), James Cooper (Sackers), Jazmin Peach (St Elizabeth), Chris Blom (CB Skips).

Cambridge college wins star rating in national audit

Murray Edwards College, Cambridge has been awarded a three star campus rating for the fourth time, following an audit of the standard of en suite accommodation it provides for conference delegates and B&B guests in vacation periods. The college was awarded the accolade from VisitEngland, the country’s national tourist board, for the facilities and services in its bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as public areas such as reception and its dining room. This year’s Quality in Tourism report highlighted the college’s free on-site parking, very high standard of cleanliness and the architecturally-attractive Dome Dining Room. The resident New Hall Art Collection – the second largest collection of works by female artists in the world – added ‘significant value’ to guests’ stay. Chris Pope, general manager of conferences, catering and residences, said: “This accolade is an important official endorsement of our accommodation and the team that works so hard to ensure we deliver a quality experience to our guests.

Photo: Myriam Larauche, Murray Edwards College with the VisitEngland plaque.