Thursday 14th November 2019
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 04/11/2019

More firms planning to recruit despite knock to confidence

Business confidence in the East of England fell in October but a growing number of firms in the region plan to hire more staff over the coming year, according to a ‘business barometer’ survey from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. Overall confidence amongst firms in the East fell two points in October to two per cent and firm’s confidence in their own business prospects fell ten points to seven per cent. But hiring intentions showed that a net balance of 8 per cent of businesses in the region expect to hire more staff during the next year, up eight points on September. Across the country, overall confidence rose four points to six per cent as firms’ confidence in their own prospects climbed slightly. The survey questions 1200 businesses monthly and was taken before the government’s new deal on Brexit and the general election was announced. David Atkinson, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “While business confidence in the region has fallen slightly, it’s reassuring to see that a balance of 8 per cent of businesses still intend to hire in the next year, which will provide a real boost for the local economy." Across the region, a net balance of 13 per centof businesses said Brexit was hitting business expectations, up 11 points on the previous month.

New energy skills academy opens in Lowestoft

East Coast College has opened a new Energy Skills Centre to help develop higher level technical skills and expertise in the region’s energy, maritime and engineering sectors. The £11.7m project, supported by New Anglia LEP’s local growth fund, will become home to the college’s East Coast Energy Training Academy, based at its Lowestoft campus. The academy will offer pathways, from Level 3 through to higher level study programmes and apprenticeships across the nuclear, oil and gas, decommissioning and renewables sectors. Businesses will also be develop their staff’s skills by taking courses at the centre. Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, said: "By establishing a regional centre of excellence with national and international specialisms, the academy will work with regional and specialist employers to ensure a pipeline of highly skilled workers to meet both existing industry demands and respond to the new large scale investments planned in wind and nuclear energy. “

Local growth minister Jake Berry MP said: “I’m proud that our £10m investment from the Government’s Local Growth Fund is supporting a new state-of-the-art Energy Skills Centre at East Coast College.”

MBO at Cambs-based broadcast systems company

A Cambs-based company that provides technology and systems integration services to broadcasters has completed a management buyout. Colin Judge, a co-founder, of Melbourn-based Independent Project Engineering and co-director Ray Bragg have transferred ownership to a new management team to take the business forward. IPE designs and supplies integrated broadcast systems for radio and television newsrooms, master controls rooms, and broadcast production facilities, working with many of the world’s largest broadcasters and new media companies for more than 30 years. The management team of Simon Warburton and Gareth Meehan, who have a combined 40 years of experience have assumed control of the business as Colin Judge and Ray Bragg exit their equity shareholding. Simon Warburton said: “This has been a very smooth process and we are grateful to the team at PEMCF, Greene & Greene, and Andrew Kidger at Barclays for their support.”

PEM Corporate Finance were appointed by the previous shareholders to oversee the MBO process. Philip Olagunju, director said: “This has been a fantastic deal for Lake Falconer and I to advise on....It has been a great journey for all involved and the business is well-placed to continue delivering a fantastic service to its clients.”

Photo (l-r): Philip Olagunju (PEMCF), Nick Tiley, Gareth Meehan, Mark Thomas, Simon Warburton (all directors at IPE), Mark Williams (Greene & Greene) and Lake Falconer (PEMCF).

See Profiles PEMCF, Barclays, Greene & Greene

Rise in insolvencies reflects turbulent times

The third quarter rise in insolvencies are further evidence that the economic and political turbulence of the last 12 months has taken its toll on businesses, according to insolvency trade body 3R. Underlying corporate insolvencies in the July-September rose by 1.6 per cent compared to the third quarter last year and were up by 0.4 per cent on the previous three months. Mark Upton, Eastern chair of R3, said : “Uncertainty and stop-start stockpiling are among the factors hitting recruitment, investment, and wider business health, and we’re seeing more businesses worrying about their cashflow levels and their order books over the next quarter and the next year. He added: “Businesses and consumer concerns about Brexit, the political uncertainty in the UK and the direction of travel of the UK’s economy are generally depleting order books, and there are other issues as well. Bricks and mortar retailers are still grappling with the challenges posed by online rivals, while manufacturing output and confidence is low. Car sales and manufacturing have declined, and the construction industry is suffering.” The number of administrations has increased by 20 per cent since the last quarter and an increase in creditors’ voluntary liquidations suggests business rescue is more difficult to achieve in the current economic environment.

Housebuilding land in demand in Essex

A series of recent major deals worth £37 million shows demand from development land from Essex housebuilders is holding up, according to Savills Chelmsford. The property consultancy has recently agreed three sales in the county for land with the potential for more than 500 new homes whilst its research shows that the average price paid for greenfield housing sites in the East of England has increased by 1.3 per cent and in urban areas by 0.4 per cent over the past year. The deals include a site in Cressing, near Braintree, with planning permission for 225 new homes bought by Countryside, another in Feering between Colchester and Witham, with permission for 164 properties, sold to Bloor Homes and one in Great Wakering, near Southend, sold to Sanctuary Housing with permission for 120 properties. Tony Lockwood from Savills Chelmsford said: “Brexit or otherwise the market remains very much there. Despite what people may have read or heard there is still very strong demand. The region is desperate for new housing. Best estimates suggest that at least 45,000 new homes may be needed across Essex within the next five years – representing a substantial uplift of more than a third from previous targets.” Values remain strong for sites that have the capacity for more than 100 new homes and which are well-located and demand was strong from social housing providers which have started to enter the market.

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Biotech firm on the move in Cambridge

Cambridge-based biotech company Evonetix has moved from Chesterford Research Park to Coldham’s Business Park in the city. The firm is occupying 15,000 sq ft in all, with 8,000 sq ft of laboratory space and 7,000 sq ft of offices. CEO Dr Tim Brears said: “Synthetic biology has the potential to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems, but we require innovation in gene synthesis to accelerate progress. Our new office and lab space will enable integration of our teams of specialists to support the development and delivery of our highly parallel desktop platform, which will be available to every researcher to accelerate their ability to use biology on a scale not currently possible.”

Law firm advises on acquisition of HR consultancy

Law firm Birketts, has advised PSI International Holdings on its acquisition of shares of specialist human resources business, Cubiks Group. With subsidiaries across 13 countries, Cubiks Group offers a range of personalised talent management solutions, specialising in people analytics. The deal was led by James Allen (photo, right) and Corinne Spencer (corporate) assisted by other specialists including Lisa Gray (diligence) and Karl Pocock (tax). Janet Garcia, president of PSI’s International division, said: “This acquisition marks the most recent phase of PSI’s continued growth in the EMEA. As Cubik are an employee- owned company, this was a complex project, requiring that shares be drawn from over 100 separate sellers. But, once again, we were impressed by Birketts efficiency, managing this complex transaction ably, working across teams to bring matters to a successful close. Their knowledgeability and client service throughout the process was second to none.”

Leading partner James Allen said: “We were delighted to work with PSI once more in helping them to secure this significant acquisition. As they take the next step in their strategic plan, we look forward to seeing the company go from strength to strength.”

Separately, Birketts has been shortlisted for the UK Law Firm of the Year at the British Legal Awards 2019. Jonathan Agar, CEO, said: “To be shortlisted for an esteemed British Legal Award is a fantastic opportunity for Birketts, and further cements our reputation as an industry leader. With these Awards attracting a wealth of high-quality entries, it is added proof of our growing impact across the legal sector.” Hosted by Legal Week in association with The City of London Law Society, the winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 21 November.

See Profile Birketts

Three Law Society presidents from one firm

Three partners from Ashtons Legal have been appointed as local Law Society residents and a further two staff members have taken up roles as vice president and treasurer. Tom Bailey from Ashtons’ Norwich office is the new president of the Norfolk & Norwich Law Society, assisted by employment lawyer Jessica Piper, who holds the role of vice-president. Meanwhile, Ashtons chairman Michael Frape is Cambridgeshire & District Law Society president. Matthew Cameron from the firm’s Bury St Edmunds office takes up the role of president of the Suffolk & North Essex Law Society with Ipswich-based solicitor Louise Cardwell taking on the role of treasurer. Local law societies are run by volunteers and provide services and support to local practising and training lawyers and host social and charitable events, training and serve as a sounding board for law reform.

See Profile Ashtons Legal

Event to drive business growth

Aston Martin Brentwood is hosting the Institute of Directors East of England on 21 November as part of a series of events to help drive business growth in Essex. Philip Eaglesfield, Aston Martin’s regional president for the UK & South Africa will be discussing what it takes to create, maintain and grow one of the world’s most recognisable brands. Further Essex IoD events this November include Mastermind networking in Hatfield Peveril and Chelmsford, and a Christmas Breakfast featuring economic predictions from the Bank of England. IoD East of England region events are open to members and non-members. To book visit https://www.iod.com/events-community/regions/east-of-england

New music space takes shape in Cambridge

Barnes Construction has reached a key stage on the new music practice and performance space it is building for Trinity Hall, Cambridge with the installation of the granite and stone walls. When complete next summer, the WongAvery Music Gallery will provide a 77 sq m stone-built rehearsal and recital space. The new building has been designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects with a skeletal type structure combining modern masonry and steel components with precast concrete, traditional granite and Portland stone. Founded in 1350, Trinity Hall is the fifth oldest college at the University of Cambridge and alumi include Professor Stephen Hawking and JB Priestley.

Junior bursar and fellow of Trinity Hall, Glen Sharp recently joined joint MD of Barnes Construction Mark Hart and the site team to mark the laying of the first stone (photo, right). Glen Sharp said: “It is good to see work progressing well on this striking building. Once the walls are finished, the stone theme will continue throughout the gallery to ensure a homogenous appearance. Bronze windows and leather-bound music boxes will also add to the intricacies of the build.”