Saturday 31st October 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 21/09/2020

Boom in air cargo at Stansted Airport fuelled by online shopping growth

The growth of online shopping and fewer passenger flights has helped create a sharp rise in volumes of air cargo at Stansted Airport. In July, the volumes of air cargo handled by Stansted rose by 44 per cent compared to the month last year and by 25 per cent in August. The upturn reflects the accelerating shift to online shopping, which rose to almost a third of UK shopping in April as the lockdown took hold. Demand for air cargo has also grown as fewer goods have been transported  in the baggage hold of aircraft as the number of passenger flights has fallen, particularly to the US. Extra weekly air cargo flights between London Stansted and the US have been laid on. Meanwhile at East Midlands Airport- which like Stansted is owned by MAG Group - there has been an average of 60 additional cargo flights to and from the US over the summer months and the volume of goods between East Midlands and JFK airport in New York more than doubled. Aboudy Nasser, group aviation director of MAG, said: “While much has been made of the changes to the way people travel, behind the scenes our airports have been leading the charge in helping the logistics sector adapt to rising demand for dedicated air cargo and changes in the way goods are transported.”

Dr Ann Limb, chair of the UK Innovation Corridor, said: “…Airports like Stansted are playing a huge role in the economic fight against Covid 19 and during these difficult times this news is a major boost for the London - Cambridge Innovation Corridor.”

Region’s economy set to recover faster than average next year

The East of England economy will see output fall slightly more than the UK average this year but it will stage a faster than average recovery in 2021, according to new report. However the Economic Outlook report from Oxford Economics predicts that the number of people employed in the East next year is likely to be slightly lower than it was pre-coronavirus and that businesses in the region are vulnerable to Brexit talks. Two thirds of goods imported into the region come from the EU and trade difficulties could leave many businesses with problems importing parts and components after the transition periods ends. Harpreet Panesar, East of England regional director for accountancy body ICAEW - which commissioned the report - said: “It’s been a difficult year so far, but the East of England has the potential for a strong recovery. However, we need government to continue to support businesses that are still struggling, where needed, especially if there is a need for further lockdowns. Without support, we may lose that strong recovery and the region’s economy will stay depressed.”

“The Chancellor’s autumn budget should be a social, education and industrial strategy which combines protection and re-training for displaced workers over the short and medium term, with intervention and investment to create jobs with a future, especially in the green and scientific sectors.”

Richard Holt of Oxford Economics said: “The East of England includes some sectors such as food manufacturing and pharmaceuticals that have been relatively resilient during the pandemic and others such as vehicle manufacturing that have faced particular challenges. The government’s industrial strategy, and its EU trade negotiations, need to take account of all sectors of the economy.”

Uncertain times take their toll on manufacturers investment plans

East of England manufacturers are continuing to cut back on investment in the wake of Covid although the sector's output is better than the national average thanks partly to the region’s large food and drink sector. The third quarter Make UK/BDO manufacturing outlook showed a balance on investment intentions of -20% although this was above the UK average. Covid also hit the the balances for order books in the East which fell to -23% and output to -9% respectively. Keith Ferguson, head of manufacturing at BDO in East Anglia, said: “The fact that so many businesses across the region are losing their appetite to invest is a real cause for concern. With a no deal exit from the EU - and associated logistics, customs and cost implications - looking increasingly likely, British manufacturers will need to step up a gear in order to compete internationally, and this will require significant investment in productivity and digitalisation improvements.” Make UK forecasts that manufacturing output will fall by almost 11 per cent this year and gdp is forecast to fall by -8.5 per cent this year before recovering by +10.1 per cent in 2021.

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Shoppers return to high streets in Ipswich and Peterborough

High Streets in Peterborough and Ipswich are returning to pre-pandemic activity levels more rapidly than other cities in the Eastern region, according to the Centre for Cities. Average footfall levels in city centres for the last full week of August, show an overall recovery index of 79% for Peterborough and 78% for Ipswich, while Norwich (66%) and Cambridge (65%) are lagging. However, high street spending in Norwich appears to be closest to full recovery at 88%, while offline sales in Ipswich city centre have risen to 79% of their pre-lockdown figure. Peterborough and Cambridge rank at 75% and 69% respectively. The Eastern branch of R3 says the figures show the extent of the challenge facing the region’s high streets as they strive to recover. The research also shows the city centres have a low proportion of workers returning to the office, with Ipswich at 29% and Peterborough at 24%, while Norwich and Cambridge have an even smaller share, at 22% and 19%. R3 Eastern chair Alistair Bacon, of AMB Law in the region, said: “The research paints a very mixed picture for our cities and highlights the enormous challenge facing centrally-located businesses as they fight to recover post-lockdown.”

Separately, a month-on-month fall in the number of corporate insolvencies in England and Wales is not a true indication of the heavy toll the pandemic is taking on businesses, says the Eastern branch of R3. Insolvency Service figuresshow that the number of companies entering insolvency fell to 778 in August 2020 from 961 in July and 1,369 in August last year.

Funding to help historic high streets ‘thrive again’

Seven historic high streets in market towns across the East of England - including Lowestoft, Gt Yarmouth and King’s Lynn - are to receive funding to restore buildings and help recovery as part of the government’s £95 million high streets heritage action zone programme. The programme, delivered by Historic England, aims to restore disused and dilapidated buildings into new homes, shops, work places and community spaces and restore local historic character. Tony Calladine, regional director at Historic England in the East of England, said: "Investing in heritage delivers good results for people – it means looking after and celebrating the places at the heart of our communities, and the buildings and public spaces which define their character. This investment… will unlock the potential of these precious high streets and help them thrive again." The beneficiaries in the East are Great Yarmouth - £980,742; Bedford-£1,760,000; King's Lynn-£800,000; Dunstable-£1,144,000; North Walsham- £975,000; Lowestoft-£565,000 and Swaffham-£380,000.

Photo: North Walsham high street in Norfolk.

Offshore firms win places on ‘catapult’ supply chain initiative

Ten companies from Norfolk and Suffolk have won a place in the first intake of a new initiative to develop the region’s supply chain for the offshore sector. Under the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult’s industry-backed Fit 4 Offshore Renewables New Anglia Programme, aims to help the ten firms to compete for and win contracts at UK offshore wind farms. Andy Holyland, ORE Catapult’s regional innovation manager for East of England, said: “The Norfolk and Suffolk region is home to some of the largest offshore wind projects in the UK and there is therefore a huge opportunity for local companies to take advantage of the economic opportunities this brings and to build on regional strengths to deliver local content to projects.” The ten firms on the programme, which was jointly funded by New Anglia LEP, are TECOSIM Simulation, Proeon Systems, Warren Services, Fern Communications, EnerMech, Stowen Clean Energy, Safinah, Prior Power Solutions , Aquaterra Energy, Lintott Control Systems.

Separately, the East of England Energy Group’s flagship Southern North Sea conference, held online, came close to over 4,082 connections with 1,549 messages exchanged, 870 online discussions conducted and with 61 exhibitors and 31 live sessions broadcast across two stages. Simon Gray, CEO of the group said: "It’s been fantastic to see the industry engaging in the virtual event with such enthusiasm and interest, I’m thrilled with how our delegates, exhibitors and sponsors have embraced this new way of networking and connecting."

Photo: Galloper offshore wind farm.

New chairman at Suffolk recyling group to support growth plans

Suffolk-based scrap metal and waste recycling group Sackers has appointed Chris Gray (photo, left) a former CEO of Port of Felixstowe owner Hutchison Ports UK, as its new chairman to support the business with its growth plans. He has wide experience in the shipping, ports and transport industry which is a key part of Sackers through its international trade arm. Sackers joint managing director David Dodds said: “We’ve been exporting for about 20 years and initially it was small scale but over the years it’s become a large part of our business. Chris is highly experienced in logistics and shipping and will bring us his industry knowledge to give us a competitive edge. He also brings huge amounts of business acumen and this is evident in some of the large corporations he has, and still does work for. We are very pleased to have Chris advise and strengthen the Sackers leadership team and his assistance to “navigate the ship” towards our growth plans.” The firm processes scrap metal, sorting it into purer groups within ferrous and non-ferrous categories and selling it for recycling to manufacturers. Its international sales include India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong as well as the EU. The business has invested £3 million  in the region’s only steel shredding plant and more recently a further £1m in a copper cable granulating plant.Chris Gray was previously MD of Contship UK and deputy MD of Contship Containerlines.

See Profile Sackers

New senior hires at business adviser and accountancy firm

Grant Thornton has made two new senior hires in the region. Andy Hodgekins (photo) will work across the Cambridge and Chelmsford offices as a partner and Hannah Cox has joined the Milton Keynes office as audit director. Previously with a big four firm, Andy Hodgekins’ experience is mainly in the consumer and industrial products and services sectors, working in industries ranging from pharma and life sciences to retail and supply, as well as technology, travel and mining. He will work from Grant Thornton’s Cambridge and Chelmsford offices to grow the audit offering in both regions. He said: “It was the midmarket focus that really attracted me to the role at Grant Thornton and I’m really looking forward to working with a range of ambitious business leaders and innovators.”

Hannah Cox (photo) joins Grant Thornton from a big four firm in Luton where she worked for 13 years. She has wide experience having clients ranging from FTSE 100s to owner-managed businesses and has focused on retail and consumer products as well as the leisure and hospitality industry. She will be involved with growing and developing Grant Thornton’s presence in the mid-market in Milton Keynes as well as Herts, Beds and Bucks.

See Profile Grant Thornton

Law firm advises property consultancy on new national expansion

Law firm Birketts has advised property consultancy practice Concertus on setting up a joint venture with Derbyshire County Council to expand its business to a second office location in Matlock. Formed in 2013 following the divestment of Suffolk County Council’s corporate property division, Concertus is a multi-discipline practice in East Anglia and beyond providing a full range of property and construction solutions services. The hope is that a second office location will enable Concertus to geographically diversify its client base and extend its project reach. At Birketts, the deal was led by Claire Jones (public sector) – photo, right- with assistance from Laura Gray (corporate) and Amy Guest (employment). Concertus managing director Andrew Rowe said: “Our growth has been swift but organic and gaining a second office location is the first part of a strategy designed to increase our team and boost our reach nationally.”

See Profile Birketts

Former Norfolk nursing home acquired by developer for housing

A  former 25 bed nursing home near Norwich has been bought by Forncett Developments for new housing after being put on the market by liquidators in a deal led by Savills. The developer plans to convert the original building at Austhorpe House in Forncett St Peter into three new homes, while a separate four bedroom house that was used for staff accommodation will also be renovated. George Craig at Savills in Norwich said: “The sale was a rare opportunity to purchase a property in an already established residential area and demonstrates the continued strength of demand for well-connected sites close to good amenities and schools in and around Norwich.”