Tuesday 25th February 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 21/01/2020

Strong year forecast for Cambridge economy

The Cambridge economy is set to perform strongly in 2020 and employment growth in the city will be the second-fastest of any UK city by the end of the year, according to a new study. Law firm Irwin Mitchell’s UK Powerhouse study, says Cambridge is expected to see job creation of 2.1 per cent this year taking the total workforce to 140,400. But the study produced by the Centre for Economics & Business Research also shows growth is expected to slow for nearly all cities including Cambridge, where the annual growth rate is set to falling from 1.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2019 to 1.2 per cent by the end of 2020. Neil Whiteley, regional managing partner at Irwin Mitchell’s Cambridge office, said: “Although most cities will see a slowing of growth in the coming quarters, there are clusters of activity and opportunity, as shown in this report. Cambridge has been incredibly resilient in the face of Brexit-related uncertainty and a global economic slowdown, and this is reflected by the stronger than average output growth rates and figures for employment.”

Separately, Cambridge ranked 12th amongst the top cities in the world for raising venture capital in 2019, according to a Tech Nation report. Six UK cities were ranked in the top 26; London (4th), Cambridge, Bristol, Oxford, Manchester and Edinburgh. The report also said the number of rapidly-growing UK tech companies soared as venture capital investment increased by 44 per cent in 2019, more than France and Germany combined and a third of the total for Europe.

Region's quoted companies could ‘beat depressed profit expectations’ in 2020

The clearer political outlook and the prospect of more government spending could help quoted companies beat expectations in 2020 but they need to remain flexible and alert to changes, according to an analysis of profit warnings. The number of profit warnings issued by listed businesses in East Anglia in 2019 was unchanged at 10 during a during a year of political and economic uncertainty, according to EY’s latest quarterly profit warnings report. Most warnings last year came in the technology, electronics and telecoms sectors. Nationally, UK quoted companies issued 313 profit warnings in 2019, a rise of 9 per cent and the highest total since 2015. A third of FTSE retailers warned on profits last year. Stuart Wilkinson, office managing Partner at EY in the East, said: “Easing political tensions and promises of UK fiscal expansion could help more companies beat depressed expectations in 2020. The median share price fall on the day of warning fell to a two-year low in the second half of 2019, which suggests that investors have priced in some of their concerns. But, underlying stresses and tensions mean that profit warning numbers could rise quickly again. Companies need to remain flexible, agile and alert to changes on multiple horizons.”

Internet emerges as major economic engine in the region

The significance of the region’s digital economy has been highlighted in research showing that the internet sector accounts for around 35,000 jobs and 8,000 business in the East of England and generates value-added of around £3.8 billion. Research from the new Internet Association also shows that the constituency with the highest number of internet sector jobs is Welwyn Hatfield (4,310) and that the largest number of internet sector businesses in the East is in St Albans (350).The largest contributor to value-added in the East is Welwyn Hatfield (£173 million) followed by Watford (£112 million) and Cambridge (£102 million). Daniel Dyball, UK executive director of the association, said: “These figures highlight the true value of the internet sector to communities in the East of England. From Norfolk to Welwyn Garden City, the internet is a major economic engine in the region.”

Briefly…

Airline launches new service from Stansted to Mumbai

A new Air India service between London Stansted and India’s economic hub Mumbai is launching next month, three months after the airline launched a service from the Essex airport to the northern city of Amritsar. The new three-times a week service begins on February 21 initially for the winter season and will be operated by a 256-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner offering both business and economy class. Ken O’Toole, London Stansted’s CEO, said: “This new route is further evidence of the growing demand from businesses and passengers across the region for more long-haul connections from their local airport. We know that 200,000 people from our region travel to Mumbai every year from other airports, so this new service will not only provide greater choice but help cut down unnecessary journeys and provide a shot in the arm to the regional and national economies.”

Housebuilder optimistic on 2020 helped by a ‘Boris bounce’

Award-winning housebuilding company Bennett Homes is looking forward to following a successful 2019, when buyers will feel more confident about purchasing a new home. Bennett Homes, which is based in Nowton, near Bury St Edmunds, is optimistic about a more buoyant and stable economic environment in 2020, helped by a ‘Boris bounce’. Despite a challenging market, the family-run business completed 100 units during 2019, with 25 per cent using the government’s Help to Buy Scheme. The government’s pledge to build one million new homes during the Parliament, a commitment to making homes available at a discount for local first-time buyers and the introduction of an Affordable Homes Programme is all helping confidence.  Edward Parker (photo, right), managing director of Bennett Homes, said: “After months of economic and political uncertainty surrounding Brexit and more recently, the General Election, at last there are signs of an uplift in confidence in the housing market. Here at Bennett Homes, we are excited about the year ahead and plan to launch a number of developments over the next 12 months. These include three in Norfolk: St Edmunds Park at Hunstanton, The Hollies at Wereham, and The Cricketers at Swardeston, as well as The Alders at Alresford, Essex.” After March  2021, Help to Buy will only be available to first time buyers.

Separately, a net balance of 67% of local surveyors expect house sales and prices to rise in the East of England in the next 12 months, according to the December RICS UK residential market survey.

Stable demand for farmland maintained

The farmland market in England was resilient in 2019 with average prices holding firm and most farms in the East are selling close to the guide price, according to Strutt & Parker. Giles Allen, of the agent in the East of England, said: “The East Anglian estates and farmland market experienced a significant fall in supply which has helped to maintain farmland values.  Arable land values now generally lie between £8,000 and £9,000/acre, although the overall range is between £7,000 and £11,000/acre. The best values are not necessarily being achieved for the highest quality land. A location where there are active local buyers can be key to achieving strong values or where there is water and the ability to grow higher value irrigated crops. Irrigated land is achieving in excess of £10,000/acre and sometimes much more. At the other end of the scale, weaker values have been seen in more remote areas.  Overall, however, most farms have sold at or very close to their guide price with demand continuing to be maintained at quite stable levels.”

Law firm seeks to shake up SME market with fixed fees

A Norfolk and Essex-based law firm that specialises in legal services for SMEs is looking to shake up the market by quoting for services at a fixed fee rather than hourly rates. The partners (photo, right) at Paladin are solicitor Marsha Robinson and barrister Neil Ashley. Marsha Robinson said: “A law firm is the same as any other business, but they usually are not run in that way. As anyone who has used a law firm will know, they have rigid charging structures and a glance at any solicitor’s bill will show a raft of costs for senior partners, trainee solicitors and secretaries to cover everything from supervision by a senior partner to photocopying by a trainee lawyer or secretary. The view we take at Paladin is that, if the case or the client does not warrant fees at hourly rates, we will quote for all the services we will provide and stick to a fixed fee. It is about having the flexibility to do what’s best for the client and for our business, rather than just saying ‘this is what we charge’.”

Family law solicitor appointed in Bury

Ellisons Solicitors incorporating Gross & Co. has appointed Rosalyn Jacobs as a family law solicitor, at the firm’s team based in Bury St Edmunds. She qualified as a solicitor in 2009 and is a highly experienced family lawyer, working for a variety of firms in the region before joining Ellisons. In 2019 she was recognised by the Legal 500 as a ‘recommended lawyer’ and is well-versed in dealing with all aspects of family law including divorce, financial settlements and children matters. Nicky Coates (photo, left) Ellisons’ partner and head of family said: “I’m delighted to welcome Rosalyn to the team. She is well-respected in the industry and her knowledge in family law will help to drive further growth in the business and deliver an even better service for our new and existing clients.” Ellisons’ family team now has two partners and four other lawyers, across its offices in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Colchester and Tendring.

Accountancy firm creates specialist healthcare team

Lovewell Blake has created a specialist healthcare accountancy team with the merger of its long-established dental and medical specialisms. The accountancy firm says its new healthcare team will give it a sizeable presence in the sector, building on more than three decades of experience. With four partners, backed by 30 specialist staff, the new healthcare team will be available to GPs, dental principals and associates, practice managers and medical consultants offering specialist advice on accounts, tax and financial planning, as well as business development and finance. “By bringing our long-standing dental and medical teams together, we are creating an industry-leading specialist healthcare team which is dedicated to understanding the challenges faced throughout the healthcare sector, and providing proactive, timely and accurate advice to help healthcare professionals achieve their financial goals,” said partner Simon De-Lacy Adams.

Funding for luxury glamping business

A Suffolk family farm-turned-luxury glamping business is expanding its range of holiday homes after receiving a six-figure funding package from NatWest. Dawn Chorus Holidays has used the £367,000 to invest in converting a timber chicken shed into three-bed and four-bed holiday cottages. Owners Bob and Helen Bradshaw founded Dawn Chorus Holidays to diversify their family-run farm to include holiday lettings eight years ago. Helen Bradshaw said: “The funding we’ve secured with NatWest comes at a fantastic time for the business and allows us to expand our offering of luxury glamping and holiday cottages.”

Separately, the government-backed British Business Bank has issued 4,556 loans to start-ups in the East of England worth £35.87 million, since its programme started in 2012. The average loan taken out by small business owners was £7,873. Loan applicants also receive support from a business advisor to help them prepare a business plan and cash flow report and 12 months of free mentoring.

Law firm pledges to help boost employability and skills for students in Ipswich

Law firm Birketts has become a ‘Cornerstone Employer’, working with other employers to develop employability and skills in schools and colleges in Ipswich. Working with The Careers & Enterprise Company and the New Anglia Enterprise Adviser Network, Birketts will provide young people in the Ipswich Opportunity Area with access to meaningful engagement with their employees and will help to provide work encounters to help them make informed choices about their futures. Ipswich has been selected as one of 12 Opportunity Areas in England to receive an equal share of a £72 million funding pot to deliver plans that will help build the knowledge and skills of local young people and provide them with the best advice and opportunities to progress. Part of the programme will focus on greater collaboration to bridge the gap between education and employers and Birketts, along with 10 other local organisations, has committed its support to make this happen. Jonathan Agar, Birketts’ chief executive officer, said: “In a year of record growth for Birketts, we are proud to have the chance to give back by becoming a ‘Cornerstone Employer’. By working with the wider business community to boost social mobility and inspire disadvantaged students, we are pleased to be able to give bright youngsters the opportunities they deserve. This unique opportunity for collaboration between local employers and schools makes the most of Suffolk's business networks, using them to guide and support the next generation in to work, and nurturing home-grown talent to help lift the local economy."

Photo: (L-R) Jonathan Agar, Birketts CEO, Shaun Savory, HR Director, Jordan Holder, New Anglia LEP

See Profile Birketts

New Hyundai dealership opens

Ken Brown Motor Group has opened a new Hyundai dealership in Letchworth Garden City in a deal brokered by Rapleys Automotive and Roadside team for the landlord, Fevore. The deal involved a new 10 year lease on the 0.78 acre site in Icknield Way, with the previous tenant surrendering an existing lease and withdrawing from the town. Richard Forman of Fevore said: "We are delighted that Rapleys were able to secure continuing long term occupation of the property in a tricky market and without a rental void. The deal really was a ‘win win win’ allowing Progress to exit and Ken Brown to step in while also enhancing our asset."

Geoff Sayer, partner at Rapleys, said: "This demonstrates that opportunities exist in the current market for brands to invest in new and affluent territories".

See Profile Rapleys

Account director with digital experience joins Ipswich-based agency

Ipswich-based PR and communications agency Genesis has added to its team with the appointment of Ali Straker as account director. She was previously editorial manager for the British Red Cross where she directed campaigns, led digital content development and produced award-winning publications. She has wide experience in the digital sphere and is adept at introducing new technologies. Prior to British Red Cross, she was a senior communications and marketing officer at Islington Council. Ali Straker said: “There are so many opportunities to take businesses to the next level with the right mix of digital, PR and marketing campaigns. I’m really looking forward to working with my talented colleagues to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations.”

Director of Genesis, Penny Arbuthnot, said; “Ali is a great fit with our team and with the Genesis ethos to drive achievement for our clients in today’s digital world. She has made an immediate impact with clients in business, public and charity sectors and we are super excited to start the year with such a significant appointment.” Genesis recently became one of fewer than 100 PR agencies nationally to achieve the highest national industry accreditation, the communications management standard.

See Profile Genesis

Events launched to celebrate innovation in Essex

Essex 2020, a celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM), is being launched this week with a series of events to mark the county’s pioneering past and present-day innovators. An event at Teledyne e2v, Chelmsford provided an opportunity to see some of the world-leading technologies which the firm develops on the site including a space exploration satellite in development and image sensors destined for NASA and the European Space Agency together with radio frequency 3-D printing systems. The event shows how partnerships between business, industry, the arts and education are working to encourage greater STEAM study opportunities and generate investment. In all more than 365 events and activities are taking place across the county from January to December as part of the initiative. www.essex2020.com

At the launch of Essex 2020 (l-r): Cllr Dick Madden, Essex County Council; Vicky Ford MP for Chelmsford; Rosie Millard, Firstsite Colchester; event host Dave Monk, BBC Essex; Adam Wood, Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society; Professor Yvonne Barnett, Anglia Ruskin University; Professor Trevor Cross, Teledyne e2v; Gavin Jones, Essex County Council.

Construction employees recognised for good work

Two Barnes construction employees started the year on a high after being recognised for their good work. Senior QS, Matt Mclaughlin (right) won the ‘national rising star award’ at the annual Interact lunch, in competition from other regional winners. He has moved through the ranks at Barnes and is managing various multi-million-pound schemes and mentoring new management trainees. Meanwhile, site manager, Wayne Fleet (left) received the SPACES young visionary award – contractor, recognising his management of the Barking Town Hall project. Bob Steward, joint MD at Barnes, said: “Recognition for good work is pivotal for us in increasing our employee engagement. Congratulations to Matt and Wayne who are both perfect examples of our philosophy to bring on and nurture ‘home-grown’ talent.”