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Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 22/10/2019

Firms still worried on impact of Brexit on supply chain

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of East of England businesses are concerned about the potential impact Brexit will have on suppliers and customers, according to research for involvency trade body R3. Mark Upton, Eastern chair of R3 and a partner at Ensors Chartered Accountants in East Anglia, said: “It’s a serious worry that so many local businesses may feel exposed to a supply chain risk as a result of Brexit. The proportion of local businesses who may be sticking their head in the sand over Brexit is also sizeable. Businesses which fail to understand how Brexit may affect their supply chains are at risk of sleepwalking into trouble.” The survey showed that almost a fifth of firms in the region have reviewed the potential impact of Brexit on their suppliers and customers and are ‘somewhat concerned’, whilst one in ten are ‘very concerned’. But some 41 per cent were either ‘somewhat' or ‘very' reassured. Of the businesses surveyed nationally, manufacturers were most concerned by the potential impact of what they found. Companies in the retail sector were most likely to be reassured.

Green shoots surface in region’s farmland market

Green shoots of growth are appearing in the region’s farmland market, despite Brexit-related uncertainty over agriculture and a scarcity of land being put up for sale. Farmland prices in the East of England rose by 0.7 per cent in the third quarter, according to Savills, higher than the national average net gain of 0.3 per cent and only the second positive result since the land market peaked in early 2015. Prices of prime arable land, up by 0.6 per cent and dairy, up 0.8 per cent, showed the strongest growth. But land supply in the third quarter was 40 per cent down nationally on the period last year with the total number of acres marketed nationally falling to 105,000 acres; the lowest number since Savills records started in 1995. Gi D’Angibau of Savills Chelmsford said: “The market remains hugely localized with the price achieved depending primarily on where the land is and who the neighbours are, not necessarily its capacity for productivity….However, there are a number of committed buyers, with quality farmland priced appropriately seeing increased competition.”

Separately, Savills Cambridge has won a contract to advise Homes England, the national housing agency, on delivery of phase two of the development at Northstowe, north west of Cambridge where 350 homes have been built in phase one. The next two stages include developing the town centre and building 8,500 homes by 2040.


Volatile economy takes profit warnings to three year high

Quoted companies in East Anglia issued seven profit warnings in the first nine months of the year - the highest level for three years - after four warnings appeared in the third quarter, according to a survey from EY. Stuart Wilkinson, EY partner in the East, said: “Continued economic uncertainty will affect the decision-making of local businesses, which could drive profit warnings further in the remaining weeks of 2019.” EY recorded 77 profit warnings from UK-listed businesses in the third quarter, up from 69 in the previous three months and 13 per cent higher than the period last year. Just over a third of profit warnings issued in the July-September quarter cited economic volatility with a further 30 per cent blaming contract delays or cancellations. Stuart Wilkinson added: “This summer, in addition to domestic concerns, UK businesses have felt the growing impact of escalating political and trade tensions in the global economy. The negative effect of protracted and widespread uncertainty is evident, with warnings becoming more widespread across all FTSE sectors.” Over a fifth of the profit warnings issued in the third quarter cited Brexit.

SMEs urged to export to boost growth

SMEs which export are seeing stronger  growth and profits although many firms see finance as an obstacle to selling overseas, according to research for UK Export Finance. It shows that firms which export have been growing at 15.2 per cent over the past five years, compared to 8.4 per cent for those with a more domestic focus. The survey of more than 1,000 UK SMEs by YouGov also showed that exporting has boosted profits by up to 20 per cent and a minority say it has lifted them by more. Around a fifth of SMEs believe they could export but don’t with late payment seen as the key issue preventing them.  Around 45 per cent of export sales are on credit. Other potential issues include difficulty managing exporting procedures and the time taken to get paid by foreign buyers. International trade secretary Liz Truss said: “Finance is a key barrier coming between SMEs and their export potential. If small businesses were to export more, Britain would see even more stronger economic growth”. A Norwich-based company, Startle - which creates background music systems for corporates - is highlighted as a successful SME exporter.

New operations & maintenance base for windfarm opens at Port of Lowestoft

The  new operations and maintenance building for the East Anglia ONE offshore windfarm at ABP's Hamilton Dock at the Port of Lowestoft has been officially opened as part of a £25 million investment by ScottishPower Renewables. The new building will support day-to-day operations including marine coordination, specialist offices and warehousing and will be the base for up to 100 full-time employees, including skilled engineers and technicians, for the 30-plus year life of the windfarm. Charlie Jordan, ScottishPower Renewables project director for East Anglia ONE, said: “Lowestoft is the home of East Anglia ONE, and to see the operations and maintenance building fully up and running really demonstrates that fact. It’s not just the base of operations for the windfarm, but a symbol of our long-term commitment to the region and our drive to grow the offshore wind industry in Lowestoft and East Anglia. With the windfarm due to be complete next year, the building is already buzzing with local employees and contractors all helping us to create clean, green energy to meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous, said: “The opening of the East Anglia ONE operations and maintenance base is a big moment for Lowestoft and the wider Waveney area. It demonstrates a significant investment in our town. East Anglia ONE is providing important job opportunities for people locally and across the region, both offshore and onshore, as well as through the local supply chain."

Photo: Peter Aldous MP (left) and project director Charlie Jordan at the O&M base opening.

New work experience programme launched at law firm

Law firm Fisher Jones Greenwood has launched a new work experience programme to help aspiring solicitors in the Essex area. Open to any student interested in learning more about a career in the law, the week-long programme has  attracted high school students and university undergraduates. FJG’s structured work experience programme has pre-set tasks designed to give candidates a good understanding of legal work. It includes working with various departments across the firm and ends in CV building, a mock interview and a 121 session with a partner. Feedback for the programme put together by Andrew Morgan (right), learning & compliance officer, has been extremely positive. Lauren Tavner, student director of the Essex Law School clinic, said: “I have learnt so much and have been given an opportunity to develop my legal skills which is invaluable for a law student”.

Paula Fowler, managing partner at FJG, adds: “With feedback from previous work experience candidates, we spotted the need for a more deliberate programme to be put in place where candidates can fully immerse themselves in the legal world. We believe our work experience programme is one of the best offered to ambitious students in Essex.” FJG is inviting applications for its work experience programme in 2020.

Promotion at Norwich-based solicitors

Norwich-based law firm Cozens-Hardy has promoted Sophie Smith (right) to associate solicitor. She joined the firm in 2017 and provides advice on all aspects of family law, dealing with the financial aspects arising from a divorce or relationship breakdown, together with arrangements for children. Sophie Smith is a trained collaborative lawyer and is a trustee for the Norfolk Family Mediation Service. Senior partner Jane Anderson said: “… Sophie is extremely popular with her clients; she is an invaluable member of the family department, and her experience and commitment adds strength in depth to our team.”

See Profile Cozens-Hardy

New employment lawyer appointed

Bury St Edmunds-based solicitors Greene & Greene has appointed newly-qualified solicitor, Melissa Willrich (right) to its employment team. She offers advice on all aspects of employment law including drafting and reviewing contracts, policies & procedures, settlement agreements and advising on workplace disputes and Employment Tribunal litigation. Before joining the firm, Melissa studied law at the University of Sussex and graduated in 2016. She went on to complete her Legal Practice Course at BPP University in Cambridge where she achieved a distinction. Selene Holden, head of employment said: “Our team advises on the full spectrum of employment law issues and is often praised as being ‘strong in responding quickly to any HR issue that arises’. Her appointment will further enhance the service that we can provide to our clients and I wish her every success in her career at Greene & Greene."

See Profile Greene & Greene

Colchester businesses celebrate success

Almost a hundred local business people along with the Mayor and Mayoress of Colchester gathered  at Colchester Business Enterprise Agency’s (Colbea) 2019 agm this week. Achievements highlighted at the event included launching the Connect with Colbea initiative with the Chelmsford Business Advice Service alongside Chelmsford City Council and winning the enterprise engagement award at the National Enterprise Network Annual Awards. Meanwhile, Colbea’s In the Market for Success (IM4S) winners have flourished in Fenwick with test trading pop-up shops and £32k of funding has been secured from the Natwest Skills and Opportunities Fund to deliver IM4S 2 and provide a platform for 100 more Essex women to explore starting their own business. Colbea chief executive Ashleigh Seymour-Rutherford said: “The annual general party is an event we all look forward to immensely and it’s fair to say it didn’t disappoint in 2019.”

University signs £50m wind farm deal

Anglia Ruskin University has signed an agreement to source electricity directly from onshore wind farms in an effort to become fully carbon neutral by 2030. It is one of 20 UK universities to sign the aggregated power purchase agreement to buy £50m of renewable energy from a portfolio of UK wind farms managed by Statkraft, Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy. The deal, which will see wind power delivered to ARU along with Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO), fixes power prices at a competitive rate for the next 10 years. This helps the 20 universities avoid market volatility at the same time as reducing their carbon footprint.