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Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 26/11/2019

Strong service sector helps keep business buoyant in Essex

Turnover and profits at the top 100 privately-owned companies in Essex have continued to grow at a healthy rate helped by a strong service sector but the county’s property businesses have faced a tougher year and firms are borrowing more, according to the 2019 Essex Limited report from Grant Thornton and Birketts. Based on an analysis of firms’ latest annual reports, it shows turnover at the top 100 has risen by 15 per cent to £10.5bn and profits by 12 per cent. The service sector in Essex saw the largest growth in turnover and operating profit and the automotive sector also stood out with a 9.7 per cent growth in turnover. Although property and construction remained the largest sector in the county by turnover and profit, it has seen a more challenging year with six companies exiting the top 100. The study also shows employment at the top 100 has risen by more than 10 per cent and average wages rose by 11.1 per cent to £30,036. Trevor Ling, tax director at Grant Thornton’s Essex office in Chelmsford, said: “ …The diverse composition, and the ‘halo-effect’ from London, means Essex is slightly more protected than some areas when it comes to surviving Brexit. Against a challenging backdrop, Essex Limited has delivered a strong overall performance including increases in turnover, profit, average wage figures and number of employees – clearly Essex Limited has both focussed on retaining their existing talent as well as growth through careful recruitment.”

Adam Jones, partner in corporate law and finance at Birketts LLP’s Chelmsford office, added: “Six of the seven sectors have also shown increased gearing this year, with companies placing more reliance on external debt financing to assist in organic growth. That growth is to be celebrated, as it is a product of Essex businesses backing themselves and their employees, but possibly also shows an apprehension about making new external investment decisions whilst the final Brexit outcome is still outstanding.”

Photo: Construction company Hill Holdings, based in Waltham Abbey, was Essex’s top performing company for the first time having seen turnover increase by 20.7 per cent.


Investment group takes stake in Norfolk-based motorsport components firm

Investor group BGF has invested £2.4m to take a minority stake in bf1systems, a Diss-based motorsport components business which employs more than 100 at its manufacturing base in Norfolk. Founded in 1994, bf1systems supplies high-precision components, which are used in major motorsport series including Formula 1TM and performance road cars such as Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin. The firm also has a facility in Romania, which it set up in 2017. The investment will support bf1systems’ long-term growth strategy involving more products and new partnerships. Adam Robson, chair of BGF-backed composites manufacturer Prodrive Composites, will join as non-executive chair. Graham Peel, managing director of bf1systems, said: “Having BGF’s funding and support for the next stage of our growth journey is fantastic, with a team that understands our ambition and shares our vision for the business.” The investment strengthens BGF’s portfolio in East Anglia which includes Cornwall Insight, a Norwich-based energy market consultancy and follows its recent successful exit of Great Yarmouth-based 3sun Group. Advisers to the deal were BGF: Mills & Reeve (legal), Wilkins Kennedy (financial) and Grant Thornton (tax) and for bf1systems: JDC Corporate Finance (CF advisory) and Hewitsons (legal).

Family-owned payroll bureau business sold

The Payroll Service Company (PSC), the largest independent payroll bureau in East Anglia, has been sold to Access UK in a deal where the owners were advised by Ashtons Legal. Based in Cambridge, PSC was founded by Jan and Geoff Leadbeater in 1973 who were joined by daughter Sherry Woolston and later, son Guy who have both taken on the management and running of the company, which caters for all industry sectors. Access Group is a leading provider of business software to mid-sized organisations and employs more than 2,100 staff. The Ashtons Legal deal team was led by partner Geoff Hazlewood, assisted by Paul Mitchell and Craig Fiddaman on the corporate side, Carrie March and Colin Makin in employment and Charlotte Vallins and Charles Webb on commercial property. Geoff Hazlewood said: “Ashtons have been staple advisers to PSC over the last 40 years and the successful outcome here is testament to the hard work and energy that the family have put into the business over the lifetime of the company.” On the accountancy and tax side, the family were advised by Jonathan Fretwell and Stephen Rose of Lakin Rose  and Patricia Taylor and Bill Thomas of Acresis UK who initially brokered the deal.

See Profile Ashtons Legal

Offshore companies highlight opportunities for region’s SMEs

Firms in the region hoping for contracts on Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas offshore wind projects met with major companies in the sector last week. The Swedish energy group brought large companies in the supply chain - known as Tier One businesses – together with SMEs and East Anglian companies to work on its planned multi-billion-pound projects off the Norfolk coast. More than 50 companies were invited to hear Vattenfall’s message: “Get talking, start working together” at the new £11.4m Energy Skills Centre, Lowestoft. Rob Lilly, Vattenfall’s procurement and supply chain manager, said: “We want as many East of England companies to be involved in our projects as are able to, so we are giving them the chance to tell Tier Ones and Twos about their capabilities and expertise, and to explore potential collaborations.” Earlier this month, Vattenfall awarded Norfolk-based 3sun Group a contract for inspections across its 50 wind farms in five countries, creating up to 30 new jobs. The company hopes to win consent next month for its 1.8 GW Norfolk Vanguard offshore wind farm, more than 30 miles off the coast and next to its proposed Norfolk Boreas wind farm.

Separately, Maersk Training has formed a partnership with East Coast College to provide training courses from its Energy Skills Centre in Lowestoft and East of England Offshore training centre in Great Yarmouth.

Law firm expands with new Chelmsford office

Ellisons Solicitors has expanded in Chelmsford with a move to a new office on New London Road in the city’s business district. The firm’s new base is a 2,100 sq ft premises and follows a successful first 18 months in Chelmsford where its team has grown rapidly and it has seen a significant increase in transactions. The new office has space for 26 employees and will allow the firm to continue to expand. Managing partner Guy Longhurst said: “It has been an incredibly exciting first 18 months for the team. The Chelmsford office has provided Ellisons with a location for the continued expansion of our practice, and the further development of our international business team. Our success is a reflection of our consistent focus on client care and in providing straightforward, clear advice.” Three of Ellisons’ Chelmsford team were named as ‘Next Generation Lawyers’ in October’s Legal 500 rankings; Paul Forsyth (partner, corporate and commercial), Scott Porter (partner, commercial litigation, insolvency and corporate recovery) and Lisa Dawson (partner, family).

Photo (l-r): Ross Wiltshire (partner), Guy Longhurst (managing partner), Natalie Simpkins (partner), John Turner (COO) and Paul Forsyth (partner) at the new Chelmsford office.

Regulatory and corporate defence barrister joins law firm

Law firm Birketts has appointed Daniel Irving (right) as a senior associate and barrister in its regulatory and corporate defence team. He was formerly a member at Blackfriars Chambers in London, and with over ten years’ experience at the Bar, is well placed to offer advice and representation in all areas of corporate and regulatory crimeand in relation to public inquiries. He has also previously advised the government on national security related-civil litigation and on data protection obligations. Daniel Irving said: “Joining a firm renowned for its expertise in the corporate sector is a great opportunity for me and I am excited to embark on this next chapter of my career.” He will be based in Birketts' Ipswich office but will support colleagues across all four offices in Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich and Norwich.

Matthew Gowen, partner, barrister and head of the regulatory and corporate defence team, added: “I am delighted to welcome this significant hire. To welcome another barrister to the team is a key stride in our ongoing journey to delivering the very best client service. As an individual with a wealth of experience in regulatory and corporate law, I am confident that Daniel’s expertise will further bolster our world-class team.”

See Profile Birketts

National accreditation for PR agency

Ipswich-based PR and digital marketing agency Genesis has achieved the highest national quality accreditation with the PR Consultants Association (PRCA).The Communications Management Standard combines elements of the internationally recognised ISO9001 and ‘Investors in People’ and is awarded to agencies after a rigorous assessment of their internal policies and procedures. Penny Arbuthnot, director at Genesis, said: “Our clients have peace of mind knowing that they are buying a professional service from a communications consultancy committed to delivering the best results to the highest standards that will make a real difference to their business or organisation.” Last month Genesis won the Chartered Institute of Public Relations ‘Best Consultancy’ award for the Anglia, Thames and Chiltern region for the second time running and in the summer it was ranked in the Top 10 PR agencies for public sector work. The PRCA is the largest PR professional body, representing over 30,000 PR agencies and practitioners. Genesis provides integrated marketing communications for the digital world, including PR strategy, corporate communications, reputation management, social media and digital marketing.

See Profile Genesis

At The Manufacturer MX Awards 2019

Cambs-based Domino Printing Sciences has won awards in three categories at The Manufacturer MX Awards. The Bar Hill-based company was nominated for seven awards and won ‘Supply Chain Excellence’ and ‘People and Skills’ accolades, and was named runner-up for ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ for 2019. It is the third year in a row that Domino has won awards at the event, after winning ‘Operational Excellence’ in 2018 and ‘Supply Chain Excellence’ in 2017. The annual event is organised by The Manufacturer magazine with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and is recognised as the gold standard for bench-marking performance. Carl Haycock, UK printer operations director at Domino, said: “We are particularly delighted to win the ‘People and Skills’ category for the first time. This award recognises the development and contribution of all our employees, something which was commented on so positively by many judges and peers at the event.”

Photo (l-r):  Henry Anson, Hennik sales director; Pete Malpas, head of region for northern Europe, RS Components (category sponsor); awards presenter Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill; Ian Whitehead, operations purchasing manager, Domino; Alexander Shaul, supply chain apprentice, Domino; and impressionist Alistair McGowan.

Recognition for wood chipper manufacturer

Suffolk-based manufacturer of professional wood chippers, Timberwolf, has been recognised as a member of Made in Britain, the official collective mark for British manufacturers. From its purpose-built facility in Stowmarket, Timberwolf has specialised in the design and manufacture of professional wood chippers for the arboricultural and horticultural sectors for over 30 years. Manging director Chris Perry said: “Timberwolf wood chippers have become renowned in the UK and in export markets for engineering excellence. Everyone at Timberwolf works incredibly hard to deliver unbeatable power and performance from every machine and to be a part of a collective promoting British engineering is very important to us.” The firm has seen strong growth in its export markets over the last five years and nearly half of its machines are now sold overseas.

Timber merchant expands with new Peterborough warehouse

The last new build warehouse unit at Kingston Park, Hampton near Peterborough has been let to Arnold Laver Timberworld, an established timber merchant brand in Yorkshire, the N West and the S East, which is moving into new trading territories with a programme of five new openings. Barker Storey Matthews was the sole agent for developer, Barnack Estates (UK) on the letting of the 12,400 sq ft trade counter and storage space at Fixley Rd on Hampton Park. Chris Whitlock, development director of the merchant's parent group National Timber Group, said: “Peterborough is an excellent location from which to expand the Arnold Laver Timberworld brand and offering. With such excellent road connections, we can reach out to existing and new customer bases, serving public and trade audiences, in the East Midlands and East Anglia.”

Chamber launches Central Suffolk branch

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has launched its new Central Suffolk branch and a manifesto for action at an event hosted by Finborough Hall. Dr Peter Funnel, chair of the new branch, which covers  Babergh and Mid Suffolk DCs, has been working with chamber staff to recruit a board. He said:"Our manifesto is focussed on three key themes: people, trade and infrastructure. It is the first of the new wave of campaigning literature that will be rolled out elsewhere across the Suffolk Chamber network over the following months."

Suffolk Chamber chief executive, John Dugmore, added: "I'm sure that Suffolk Chamber in Central Suffolk under Peter's leadership will be an effective and long-term voice for all businesses, not only our members, in this pivotal part of our county."

The Suffolk Chamber in Central Suffolk board members are: Dr. Peter Funnell (founder chair),Oakmere Solutions; Dayle Bayliss; Adam Bird (Clarks Archive Storage); Phil Clark (Konings Juices & Drinks UK); Danny Cuff (Gipping Press); Charles Downie (Bacton Transport Services); Marlini Finney (Challs International); Mary Graham (Yellobelly); Anne Harrison (Colour Marketing Services); Nigel Slinn (Sackers) and Mark Tyldesley (Muntons).

Cambridge college hosts Chinese wine tasting

St John's College Cambridge has held an event to showcase a selection of wines from China, with a tasting session led by an international specialist in the field. The college welcomed Janet Z Wang, an authority on fast-emerging Chinese and Asian wines and author of an acclaimed book as well as an alumna of Newnham College, Cambridge. The event for students and staff was fully subscribed and included a tutored tasting of wines with descriptions of the grape varieties and wine regions of Xinjiang and Ningxia. Wines included Silk Roads Vineyards Explorer Riesling, Xige Estate Yuge Cabernet Blend Rosé and Copower Jade Vineyard Cellared Syrah. The last wine was tasted with Chinese food from Sichuan, prepared by college chefs. Bill Brogan, catering & conference manager at St John’s College, said: “We were delighted to welcome Janet to run a special tasting event for us, much enjoyed by everyone who attended and with requests for similar events in the future. Domestic consumption of Chinese wine is really taking off, as the quality improves each year, which was evidenced by the excellent wines in our tasting. Exports are also increasing and it is becoming more and more popular in the UK. Recently we added a Chinese wine to our catering wine list and we will be holding a Chinese New Year Super Hall event in January for our students." Leading the way in China are Cabernet Sauvignon wines – where there is the largest planting area of this grape in the world – and for whites, Chardonnay and Riesling are notable, as is Vidal, used in making ice wines.

Photo: Bill Brogan, catering & conference manager at St John’s College with Janet Z Wang before the Chinese wine tasting.