Tuesday 25th February 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 10/02/2020

“Wake-up call” for local firms as insolvencies surge to six year high

Corporate insolvencies rose by 7 per cent last year to reach a six year high and are a “wake-up call” for local businesses, according to the Eastern branch of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3. It is urging business owners to seek professional help if they are struggling as Insolvency Service figures show that there were 17,196 corporate insolvencies in 2019 in England & Wales, the highest since 2013. The numbers of administrations, which are designed to support business restructure and rescue, increased by 24 per cent in 2019 and are also at their highest since 2013. R3 Eastern chair Mark Upton (right), a partner at Ensors Chartered Accountants in East Anglia, said: “These figures are a reflection of anaemic economic growth throughout 2019… The manufacturing and construction sectors continue to struggle, while traditional retailers have been hit by declining footfall and the continued growth of online shopping. Brexit-inspired stockpiling in 2019 may also have added to economic disruption.”

He continued: “This will be a key year for East of England businesses, and the insolvency profession will do its best to support them. However, it is vital to have the full backing of the Government as well.” One factor which may affect involvency numbers in 2020 is the Government’s plan to make HMRC a ‘preferential creditor’ in insolvencies from April which will hurt business lending and could push some businesses into insolvency.

Jump in new orders creates high expectations for business activity in 2020

Private sector business activity in the East grew at its fastest pace in 16 months in January driven by a sharp increase in orders in the service sector whilst expectations are at their highest level for two years, according to a key survey of purchasing managers. The  NatWest East of England business activity index jumped to 54.1 in January from 49.1 in December and signalling the first expansion in private activity in the region since October. Only London was ahead of the East in terms of the output growth. Although services firms saw a solid increase in new work, manufacturing orders continued to fall, albeit at a softer rate. Job creation was the quickest since last July, but still modest overall and the rate at which firms worked through their backlogs of work slowed. Rising fuel and wage costs meant the rate of input price inflation was sharp and the quickest for four months. John Maude, NatWest Midlands & East regional board, said: “Improved demand conditions drove the latest increase, with new business rising for the first time since September last year and sharply overall.”

“Meanwhile, uncertainty appears to have subsided going into the new year, as workforce numbers increased at the quickest pace since last July and firms’ output expectations strengthened to the highest since February 2018. Indeed, anecdotal evidence linked confidence to a clearer outlook, alongside positive growth forecasts and improved client demand.”

Briefly...

New port office to support offshore sector opens in Lowestoft

ABP has  unveiled a new £250,000 state-of-the-art port office in Lowestoft highlighting its support for the growing offshore energy sector. At an opening ceremony Peter Aldous MP for Waveney, said: “This represents a significant investment in the port, which has a key role to play in the local economy, bringing new jobs to the area to service the offshore wind industry, oil and gas decommissioning and a revitalised fishing industry. The port is also increasingly popular with leisure and sailing crafts, as well as being the home port of CEFAS Endeavour, which compliments well CEFAS’ investment in their new office headquarters at Pakefield.” The new office is part of an investment of more than £2.2  million in the Port of Lowestoft in the last 12 months which includes £800,000 on a new pilot boat and facilities and over £1.4 million spent on improvements in areas such as IT upgrades, better wi-fi, new fencing and security. The port handles around 60,000 tonnes of cargo per year and more than 4 000 crew transfer vessel calls in 2019. Together with ABP's other two East Anglian ports, Lowestoft, King’s Lynn and Ipswich, contributes £360 million to the UK economy. Andrew Harston, ABP regional director, Wales & short sea ports, said: “Thanks to the hard work of our regional team, construction work on the new office building, which commenced in September 2019, ran smoothly and was completed on schedule.This means that our colleagues have access to a brand new and state-of-the art office, which will allow us to better serve the needs of the thriving energy sector in the region.”

Photo (l-r) Andrew Harston (ABP director, Wales and short sea ports) Alice Taylor (Mayor of Lowestoft) and Peter Aldous (MP for Waveney) together with ABP staff and guests at the opening.

Property firm buys retail park in multi-million pound deal

Beccles-based developer and investment firm Barsham Securities has bought Haverhill Retail Park in a multi-million deal sealed by Norfolk -based commercial property firm Arnolds Keys. The newly-developed 2.4 acre retail park comprises over 27,000 sq ft of retail space and is fully let to Home Bargains, Pets at Home and Pure Gym. The deal comes months after Arnolds Keys negotiated two other deals for Barsham Securities, including the off market purchase of an office investment on Norwich Business Park. “This is a well let modern scheme to a mixture of financially strong national operators in a prominent position in a strong market town,” said Mark Mayhew, associate at Arnolds Keys.  All of the units are let on long leases.

Stuart Holmes, director at Barsham Securities, said: “We are delighted to have secured this high-profile, new retail property for our investment portfolio.”

() Separately, Schroder UK Real Estate Fund has signed 63,000 sq ft of new lettings at the Hall Road Retail Park in Norwich, securing Iceland and Home Bargains alongside a reconfigured unit for DIY specialist Homebase. A fourth unit of 16,500 sq ft is available to let.

Welcome for early opening of A14 widening

The £1.5 billion scheme to widen the A14 east of Cambridge will open to drivers more than six months early, says Highways England. CBI regional director for the East of England Richard Tunnicliffe said: “Today’s news that the A14 will be finished six months early and on budget is a real cause for celebration in the region. This scheme is something that will make a massive difference to businesses and commuters in our area and will become a major artery to the Midlands. This scheme shows that the UK can deliver high quality infrastructure promptly.”

Meanwhile, bold action on skills, net zero, innovation and infrastructure can kick-start new decade of growth & investment in the East of England the CBI said in a letter to the Chancellor ahead of the Budget. It urges the government to put the ‘East of England at the heart of the Budget’ with a series of critical infrastructure asks, including the A47 and improvements to Ely North Junction.

Law firm advises on transfer at biotech company

Law firm Birketts has advised the director of a leading agricultural research and training company, Crop Management Information, on its transfer of undertakings to a cutting-edge farming company Beeswax Dyson Farming, which is owned by Sir James Dyson. Founded in 1986, CMI  was known for its expertise on arable farming systems. It ceased trading as a business last December and its staff have moved to Beeswax under the name Green Crop Information. Specialising in aspects of farming such as soil health and crop production, Beeswax hopes that the acquisition will enable it to further expand and diversify its agriculture and farming practice offerings. The transaction was led by Lisa Gray (corporate, photo above), with support from Abigail Trencher in the employment team. Deborah Green, director of CMI, said: “I’m very proud of CMI’s achievements. The company has had a considerable influence on UK and European agriculture and I hope that its legacy can continue under the Beeswax umbrella. I wish the Beeswax team every success. Birketts have been fantastically supportive throughout this transitional period."

Separately, Birketts has been named Law Firm of the Year at the Modern Law Awards 2020. Jonathan Agar, CEO, said: “The Modern Law Awards celebrate firms that are able demonstrate a rounded approach to the delivery of legal services and have made extensive progress in strategy, growth, financial performance, employee development, diversity and training over the last year. We are delighted to be recognised by the awards’ panel of industry experts."

See Profile Birketts

Law firm set up court of protection team

Norwich-based law firm Cozens-Hardy has set up a dedicated court of protection team. Headed up by partner Damian Short (head of the firm’s litigation department) with private client lawyer, Paige George, it will guide clients through the process of applying for a deputyship order - when an individual lacks the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves and a lasting power of attorney isn’t in place - at what is often a stressful and emotional time. Damian Short currently acts as a professional deputy for some of the firm’s clients; he also applies for court of protection orders on behalf of deputies and attorneys to allow them to take steps that their authority would not normally permit them to do, for instance preparation of wills (deputies) and tax management (attorneys).

See Profile Cozens-Hardy

New chair at business enterprise agency

Colchester Business Enterprise Agency (Colbea) has appointed a new chair, Sara Thakkar (right) to steer the enterprise agency towards continued success across Essex. She has wide business and leadership experience across the public, private and third sectors. As current chief executive of Colne Housing, she has contributed to the broader Colchester and North Essex Community and an early “Colchester Ambassador” for the business network. Ashleigh Seymour-Rutherford, Colbea CEO said: “Sara is an experienced professional with a passion for supporting her local business community and we look forward to working with her to achieve our entrepreneurial business community’s full potential.” Colbea has been expanding and now also offers its fully-funded business advice in Chelmsford and Rochford, through partnerships with the district councils.

Tourism, leisure and hospitality business survey launched

MHA Larking Gowen has launched its annual tourism, leisure and hospitality business survey, and Chris Scargill, tourism partner at the firm, needs your help. “Interesting times lie ahead for the tourism sector in the U.K. The collapse of Thomas Cook and financial uncertainty in other carriers, combined with a greater call to go green, make a UK stay all the more appealing. I’m confident that by working together, businesses in the region can make the most of this and ensure our region develops further into a holiday destination of choice in the UK. But tourism doesn’t just happen. Against a backdrop of rising costs, as well as increasing cultural, political and natural challenges, the sector is buzzing with investment, passion and energy."

He added: "Once again, we’re undertaking the largest independent survey of its kind for your region and we need your help. The information gathered helps to provide representative and accurate data about the tourism sector. It covers many key aspects, creating a useful benchmark for you and your business.” You can take part in the 2020 Tourism, Leisure & Hospitality Business Survey online at www.tourismsurveys.co.uk

See Profile MHA Larking Gowen

Robotics and AI experts choose Cambridge for conference

A leading international conference on  robotics and artificial intelligence has chosen Cambridge to host its 2020 event. Helped by Meet Cambridge, the official venue-finding service for space at the university and colleges, Human Robot Interaction 2020 (HRI2020) is bringing around 650 delegates from across the world to the city from 23rd-26th March. The three-day event will be held at Fitzwilliam College, The Guildhall and The Corn Exchange and several colleges will jointly host an official conference dinner. Professor Tony Belpaeme, professor of robotics at both Ghent University and the University of Plymouth and general chair of the organising committee, said that Cambridge won at the bid stage because of the city’s outstanding global brand and setting for key moments in science, its excellent transport links and the strong appeal to international delegates. He said: “The draw of Cambridge has already seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of papers submitted compared to last year and we are anticipating attendance by more than 650 people from across the USA, Asia and Europe." www.meet-cambridge.com

Photo: HRI2020 Organising Team, (l-r): Rose Padmore and Madalina Marincas (Opening Doors & Venues); Judith Sloane, Meet Cambridge; Indu Bodala and Theo Amanatidis (local organising committee for HRI2020).

Cambs firm invests to help customers meet sustainability goals

Cambs-based Domino Printing Sciences has launched a new initiative to help its customers meet changing regulatory requirements and achieve sustainability goals. The company, which is a global leader in coding, marking and printing technologies, has made a significant investment at its Bar Hill hq – in both state-of-the-art testing facilities and a specialist team – to advise customers on the recyclability of their packaging and ensure codes remain of the highest quality. Susan Palmer (photo, right), head of global pre-sales at Domino, said: “Product packaging requirements are constantly evolving and any change in packaging materials can have a significant impact on the reliability, durability and legibility of codes. Our team of technical specialists work closely with customers and the Ink development team to find the best solutions."

Essex business leaders urged to enter awards

Entries are now open for the Institute of Directors East of England Director of the Year Awards 2020. The awards are free to enter and are open to all directors or equivalent level, executive and non-executive, whether or not they are IoD members. Essex business leaders can submit their own entry online or nominate someone else they believe is making a significant difference. The deadline for entries is Friday 27 March. Those shortlisted for the final will be invited to attend an awards lunch on Friday 12 June 2020 at the Bedford Lodge Hotel in Newmarket. Simone Robinson, regional director IoD East of England, said: “The IoD East Awards are a unique opportunity for Essex directors to celebrate their achievements as business leaders with their peers. Whether you enter, or are nominated, the IoD Awards recognise every aspect of business, from leadership and innovation to corporate social responsibility." www.iodawards.com/east