Friday 03rd July 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 26/03/2020

Welcome for government help but firms urged to seek advice in ‘worrying time’

The chancellor’s employee support measures to help businesses through the virus emergency have been welcomed but any firms facing difficulties have been urged to seek early professional advice.

Mark Upton (right), Eastern chair of insolvency trade body R3 and a partner at Ensors Chartered Accountants in the region, said: “The measures...are a positive step and will go some way in providing businesses with the financial help they need to support and retain their staff and weather the economic storm.” But he added: “However, time will tell whether this package is enough. Detail on how this package of support will affect those who are self-employed or on zero hours contracts is needed as these groups are particularly financially vulnerable in the current climate. As well as support for maintaining employment, other help is needed. The VAT payment holiday is welcome, but the same could be done for other taxes. Despite the support the Government is providing, we are aware that this is a worrying time. Any directors or business owners whose businesses are in difficulty or are starting to see signs it will struggle should seek professional advice as early as possible.”

Commenting on the government's package, Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore said: "...Whilst we await the detail, on face value it looks an impressive programme to initially reassure many hard-pressed employers with the aim of giving confidence to thousands of Suffolk businesses to continue trading in the future."

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Law firm helps secure sale of Essex-based subsidiary for global group

Law firm Birketts has advised global composite manufacturer AOC on the sale of its subsidiary company AOC (UK), based at Manningtree in Essex, to a German-owned group BÜFA Composite Systems. Founded in 1984, AOC (UK) is an independent distributor of resins, catalysts and release agents to manufacturers in markets including construction, marine and transport. At Birketts, the deal was led by Alex Forwood and Nick Burnett with support from Matthew Adamson (corporate), Clare Barlow (employment), Claire Hunt (commercial), Amanda Early (real estate), Ed Long (environment) plus John Kahn and Ben Clarke (tax). Jean-Paul Van De Velde, general counsel at AOC, said: “The sale of AOC (UK) to BUFA is the next step in the deepening of the commercial relationship between AOC and BUFA. We were impressed by the strength and depth of experience provided by Birketts on the transaction, with support coming from a range of teams. The service across the teams was seamless, and to a standard comparable with any London law firm.”

Alex Forwood (right) said: “Birketts was delighted to assist a longstanding client in AOC in realising its strategic goals with the sale of AOC (UK) to BUFA. The transaction represented a great next step in the commercial relationship between the two businesses.” KPMG acted as the corporate finance advisor for AOC."

See Profile Birketts

Transport firms join logistics initiative

Ipswich-based Lombard Shipping has joined over 700 logistics businesses, all members of the UK’s eight major Pallet networks, to put their combined fleet of 23,500 vehicles at the government’s disposal. In a move headed by the Association of Pallet Networks (APN), the networks have joined forces to offer their services for the distribution of critical emergency and food supplies. Peter Fraser, operations director at Lombard Shipping, said: “We are proud to play our part in this unique collaboration as the entire UK industry joins forces to transport the most vital supplies. We continue to pay close attention to government advice on COVID-19 and have taken practical precautions to limit risks. Collectively our sector has unrivalled resource and the individual companies are local experts with vast experience of express distribution and a key link in the UK supply chain.”

Magnus Group, a logistics firm based at Great Blakenham near Ipswich, has also joined the initiative.

Essex day nursery sold to national operator

Small Friends Day Nursery, based at Leigh-on-sea, Essex, has been sold to a growing national operator. The nursery has been bought by The Old Station Nurseries, a provider with sites across the UK which now has 19 sites in the south. Sophie Willcox, associate director at Christie & Co who handled the sale, said: “We received a number of offers and we went under offer within weeks of coming to the market. The demand for good quality assets in London and the south is as strong as ever.”

Sarah Steel, managing director, said: “It is a really great nursery, with an ‘outstanding’ rating from OFSTED, and we are looking forward to getting to know the children, staff and parents.” Having operated the nursery for a number of years, the previous owner, Louise Parfett is pursuing new ventures as a result of the sale.

Investors could ‘compete for farmland’ after stock market fall

The fall in the stock market may prompt investors to look at buying farmland in the region, according to a leading agent. Christopher Miles, who leads the rural agency team at Savills Norwich, said: “The dramatic fall in the stock market may encourage some of those with cash funds to invest in land and property so we may see investors entering the land market again and competing for farmland. You only have to look back to the global financial crisis to be reminded of how land has been viewed as an attractive, long term defensive investment class.” He added: “Until the last few weeks sellers we have been talking to have been ready to commit to the market, with the confidence that the prospect of greater activity brings. Similarly, many buyers have been frustrated by the lack of stock to consider and have been excited about the prospect of having some new farms and estates to see at last. Unsurprisingly, all that seems to be on hold, at least for the time being.”  Savills is in the process of doing three private deals where it has matched buyers with a seller who doesn’t want to, or can’t, put their property on the open market. The firm is also continuing to prepare those farms that are earmarked to come to the market for sale. Because of the wet weather, launches have largely been delayed until mid-May at the earliest.

Expanding firm takes warehouse space near Peterborough

CRWP (Honeypot) has let a warehouse unit at Twyford Park on Honeypot Lane Industrial Estate in Colsterworth, north of Peterborough to a growing firm which provides cricket equipment, Durant Cricket. The firm has agreed to a new three-year lease for warehouse space totalling 4,000 sq ft which was marketed at a quoting rent of £18,000 pa. William Rose, director in the business space team at Savills Peterborough, said: “The unit at Twyford Park provides secure warehouse accommodation in a well-established industrial location with good access to the A1. The property’s strong credentials made it the ideal place for Durant Cricket as it continues its expansion.” CRWP was advised jointly by Savills and Lambert Smith Hampton.

IoD to host 'virtual lunches' to keep businesses connected

IoD East of England is hosting a series of virtual members’ lunches and events aimed at keeping businesses connected during the pandemic. The connected lunches will take place virtually on Microsoft Teams and provide an opportunity for IoD East members to chat on current business issues. A series of webinar workshops and interactive advisory sessions are also planned, covering topics ranging from economic updates to advice on navigating the coronavirus crisis, including expert advice on the psychological effects of working from home. Simone Robinson, regional director for the IoD in the East of England, said: “The IoD is here to support members through the days, weeks and months ahead by responding to immediate need. People are concerned, scared and isolated and it is important that they have other like-minded business leaders to talk to and share experiences and advice.  That is why we have created a series of workshops and virtual lunch sessions, as a forum for the region’s IoD members to come together and support each other through these challenging times. We expect demand to be high, but we have measures in place to ensure each virtual session is intimate and connected; we will host as many sessions as required.” For information and to book a free session online go to www.iod.com/eastevents