Thursday 01st October 2020
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Region's deal scene rebounds with upturn in corporate activity 

A series of recent mergers and aquisitions involving medium sized tech and distribution companies across the East of England suggests confidence is returning to the region's deal scene. Over the past week three significant deals invoving Ipswich based IT and telecoms company QDOS-sbl Group, a Norwich-based price comparison site Know Your Money and Wisbech-based BRT Industrial point to businesses' appetite for corporate activity returning. It follows the $5 billion acquisition by Cambridge-based industrial software group Aveva of California-based OSIsoft agreed at the end of last month. Key deals unveiled in the region over recent days include...

Norwich-based price comparison firm acquired by US group

Know Your Money, a Norwich-based UK price comparison site, is to be acquired by NerdWallet, a large US-based website and app to provide what they say will be the most comprehensive financial comparison website in the UK. Know Your Money was co-founded in Norwich in 2004 by John Ellmore and Jason Tassie, digital marketing specialists with experience at Google and Aviva. Last year, Deloitte named Know Your Money a Fast Track 500 business, and the firm was in The Sunday Times 2017 Tech Track 100 shortlist. NerdWallet was founded in 2008 and is based in San Francisco. Know Your Money co-founder Jason Tassie said: “Working with NerdWallet will help us accelerate our existing growth plans, expanding our content library, tools and guides to offer users more support in financial decision making. Know Your Money and NerdWallet are perfectly aligned in their goal of empowering people to make better, more-informed financial decisions.” Know Your Money shareholders were advised by Sequence Advisers and law firm Mills & Reeve.

Ipswich-based IT company combines forces with four others in sector

Ipswich based IT and telecoms company QDOS-sbl Group is to join a group of five firms involved in managed IT services and unified communications who are combining to create a new venture Ridgewell Group, which is backed by private equity. The combined group employs over 100 people, half of which operate out of the head office in Ransomes Europark in Ipswich. Founded 27 years ago, QDOS-sbl specialises in the hospitality sector and clients include The Ritz, Shangri-La at The Shard and Hotel Café Royal. The other four firms in the combined group are Ridgewall, Connecting London, Telnet and Nomis Connections. Ridgewall started acquiring businesses in the sector early last year and in November Inflexion Private Equity invested in the firm and back the acquisition of QDOS-sbl. The combined group has around 1,800 customers and is launching a new brand.

Cambs-based industrial distributor acquired in move to create UK-wide group

Wisbech-based BRT Industrial, a specialist distributor with nine depots mainly in the east of the country, is to become part of a wider UK-wide distribution network. It follows the acquisition by Antifriction Components of the industrial arm of BRT Group. The multi-million deal will create the UK’s largest specialist distributor of its type by combining Bristol-based Antifriction, which supplies moving parts for industry and has ten depots mainly in the west, with BRT Industrial. The deal also allows the family-run BRT Group, a leading supplier of vehicle ball bearings, to focus on the automotive market. Phillip Clarke, managing director of BRT Industrial and one of the family, will transfer to Antifriction along with his 49 staff. He said: “While we are very proud of our heritage as a family business, the market has evolved and reluctantly we recognised that we needed to demerge the two arms of the business. This deal will allow both sides to prosper by focusing on our specialist areas.” BRT Industrial’s depots in are in Inverness, Edinburgh, Doncaster, Grimsby, Wisbech, Wickford, Slough, Southampton and Avonmouth

Photo: Phillip Clarke (left) with Antifriction MD Andrew Fleming.

Five fast growing firms in the East feature in Tech Track 100 league

Five companies with an hq in the East of England featured in The Sunday Times Sage Tech Track 100 league table. The five have grown their sales by an average of 77 per cent to more than £206 million and employ some 1800 people combined. They are: Featurespace (analytics software developer, Cambridge, no. 36) ; Azuri Technologies (solar technology developer, Cambridge, no. 40); Endomag (medical device developer, Cambridge, no. 43); Darktrace (cyber-security developer,Cambridge, no. 58); Kymab (biopharmaceuticals developer, Cambridge, no. 87). Paul Struthers, managing director, UK & Ireland at Sage, said: “Being tuned into the drumbeat of the UK’s tech innovation is in our blood and it is fantastic to see companies in the east of England that are thriving despite the challenging environment.”

The largest of the five, Darktrace, has artificial intelligence which have detected and countered multiple malicious attacks and whose customers include the NHS and Samsung. It was valued at $1.65bn in 2018 when it raised $50m from investors and is reported to be considering an IPO in 2021 with a valuation of at least $1.9bn. Led by co-founder and chief executive Poppy Gustafsson, sales reached £158m this year.

Software company is first to take space at The Epicentre in Haverhill

Fast growing software development company Snowing Data is the first company to take space at The EpiCentre at Haverhill Research Park ahead of its opening in November. The software company, which employs seven and is set to double its staff numbers by the year-end, has taken a 452 sq ft unit at The EpiCentre, which provides flexible terms and all-in services. Snowing Data CEO Asa Burrows said: “We are delighted to be moving into The EpiCentre which will allow us to expand as the company grows." On completion, The EpiCentre will have over 60 office suites available from 172-840 sq ft. Gareth Scargill, commercial director at Oxford Innovation, which runs the Epicentre, said: “We are offering much more than a serviced office or laboratory with flexible space. Our offer is not to ‘let and forget’ but to provide ‘value-add’ to our customers through our inclusive business coaching and support programme.”

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Assets of Newmarket-based Animal Health Trust go up for sale

The assets of The Animal Health Trust, based in Newmarket, have been put up for sale after fundraising issues exacerbated by Covid forced it to close its doors via a proposed liquidation earlier this year. The site housed operations including a small animal clinic, MRI equipment and cancer centre, hydrotherapy equipment, kennels, and extensive scientific and R&D laboratories. Sales of this type are rare according to Gordon Brothers, which has been instructed to manage the sale via private treaty and online auction.

Norwich-based vehicle simulation tech firm recruits to meet demand

Ansible Motion, a specialist in vehicle simulation technology based near Norwich, has made three new engineering and design appointments. They follow growing demand for portable simulation technology during Covid across vehicle manufacturing and motorsports sectors. Justin Goodrum, Kenny Bolingbroke and Jack Morter will be based at Ansible Motion’s Hethel site where its £2m R &D centre is used to develop and showcase advanced simulation technology for the motor industry. Kia Cammaerts, founder and director of Ansible Motion said: “Against the current backdrop of significant job losses and redundancies happening almost daily across the region and the rest of the UK, we are extremely proud to support the economy and community through introducing more skilled workers and young blood to a thriving business developing some of the world’s most advanced, ground-breaking technology for the benefit of millions of people around the world.”

Photo (l-r) : Justin Goodrum, Kenny Bolingbroke and Jack Morter

Managing partner celebrates 25 years at law firm

The managing partner of Ellisons Solicitors, Guy Longhurst (right), celebrates 25 years with the firm this month. He joined the growing firm, which has offices across Essex and Suffolk, in 1995, becoming partner in 1999 and senior partner in 2012. A specialist in all aspects of commercial property matters, Guy Longhurst said: “The highlight for me is the people in the business now and those who have worked with Ellisons during my time here, who have helped take the business and our clients forward. For me working and growing as a team is undoubtedly the greatest achievement of the firm.  We want to deliver excellence to our clients so in turn have invested heavily in training and development to ensure we provide the best service we can. Anybody joining Ellisons today knows there is a career path for them and they can fulfil their career objectives with our full support.”

Support for calls for more investment in training to boost broadband networks

East Anglia-based hyperfast broadband provider County Broadband is supporting calls for more investment in training and skills to boost numbers of engineers and help build full-fibre networks in rural areas. County Broadband has increased its workforce six-fold in the last year following a multi-million pound investment and is building a growing number of hyperfast networks in rural areas. Skills shortages are putting a government target to provide gigabit-capable speeds nationwide by 2025 at risk, according to INCA, an industry body. Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband, said: “… we need a firm commitment from the government to direct enough resources and training opportunities into the engineering industry, and whilst we pledge to play our role to help identify and train future-ready local talent, we will continue to work with and support INCA in ensuring the rapidly-evolving industry gets the funding assurances we need.” Currently, only 12 per cent of the UK can access full-fibre networks that provide 1,000 Mbps speeds.

Training centre refurbished to meet needs of professionals

The Willows Training Centre at Wyboston Lakes Resort on the Cambs/Beds border has been refurbished to meet the needs of professionals in the sector and delegates with a comprehensive restyling of its interiors. The venue’s 12 meeting rooms have been upgraded, an additional meeting room has been created, including a new boardroom for up to 24 delegates, and a creative space, ‘Willows Parkway’, which has been designed like a London tube station. The public areas, reception, bar, restaurant and many of the venue’s 183 ensuite bedrooms have also been upgraded. The development follows a £3 million overhaul of the resort’s Woodlands Event Centre, finished just over a year ago and brings Wyboston Lakes Resort’s total capital reinvestment to over £10m in recent years. Managing director Steve Jones said: “The Willows Training Centre is hugely popular with our guests and receives outstanding feedback. It was however very dated and this comprehensive refurbishment addresses that and sees the venue fit for the future. It also brings the quality up in line with our other venues and will continue to offer excellent value along with class-leading standards.” Long established training clients of Wyboston Lakes Resort includes NHS, Anglian Water, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Firebrand and Kier Group.

Industry awards for consultancy include Ipswich development

The Winerack residential development on Ipswich’s Waterfront has won an award while the £30 million scheme's manager, property and construction consultancy Ingleton Wood, has picked up a hat-trick of titles. The Winerack(right) won the Best High Volume New Housing Development Award at the virtual Local Authority Building Control East Anglia Business Excellence Awards 2020. Ingleton Wood, which provided full architectural, building services engineering, planning, project management, and quantity surveying services for The Winerack, won the award with R G Carter and Ipswich Wharf Developments. Ingleton Wood also shared success with Orbit Homes and Wellington Construction after the Bluebells affordable housing development in Reydon near Southwold won the Best Social or Affordable New Housing Development Award. Ingleton Wood also shared the Best Change of Use of an Existing Building Award after project managing a £9.5million redevelopment of Brentwood Town Hall with Brentwood Borough Council and Farrans Construction. David Cresswell, partner at Ingleton Wood, which has offices across the East of England including Colchester, Cambridge and Norwich, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have won a hat-trick of awards at the LABC East Anglia Business Excellence Awards 2020. The projects span a diverse range of specialisms and sectors – showcasing the quality and breadth of our multi-disciplinary and architectural teams as well as our proven track record of working in close partnership with clients to deliver their needs in time and on budget."

See Profile Ingleton Wood