Tuesday 01st December 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 16/11/2020

Trading with Europe set to be 'more challenging' than many firms admit

Trading with Europe after Brexit, deal or no deal, will be more challenging than many businesses are currently willing to admit, according to Chris Scargill, partner and business advisor at MHA Larking Gowen. He said: “Due to COVID-19 the majority of British companies involved in exporting to Europe have not been able to give Brexit the attention they should, and unfortunately, some are in denial about the scale of the challenge. While there are a number of solutions available to facilitate EU trade, it is not as simple as getting an EU EORI number* to solve all supply chain challenges.” A poll of 50 import and export businesses during a recent MHA Larking Gowen Brexit webinar noted only 8 per cent  of businesses felt fully prepared for exiting the EU, although pleasingly, 37 per cent felt they were more than 50 per cent prepared right now."

He added: “The problems Brexit will throw up are surmountable, but they also require a long-term strategy to adjust to new trading arrangements and regulatory issues. The lack of preparedness is very understandable given the pandemic, but businesses now need to act promptly and get in the right mindset to see Brexit through over the next five to ten years."...Read more

See Profile MHA Larking Gowen

Changes faced by retailers and wholesalers set to remain in place for long term

The average supply chain for retailers and wholesalers has doubled from five to ten weeks since the start of the pandemic and firms do not expect supply conditions to return to normal until at least next  March, according to a report from Barclays Corporate Banking. It highlights the volatility of both demand and supply conditions faced by the sector and says that Covid-19 has forced many retailers in the East of England to accelerate the shift towards e-commerce and to set up shops locally. The report notes that over half of all retailers saw an increase in demand – particularly in diy & garden, food & drink and sports & leisure - which for many caused temporary product shortages.  Meanwhile, many wholesalers across the UK began selling direct-to-consumer for the first time during the pandemic. Whilst just over half of UK wholesalers faced falling demand due to the closure of restaurants, bars and pubs, nearly a third saw a significant increase in orders, as consumers tried new hobbies during lockdown. It also notes that after years of change to handle e-commerce and Brexit, nearly half of businesses felt well-prepared for Covid. Many firms in the East had already been altering logistics, diversifying supply chains and stockpiling. Nationally, over half of firms think the impacts of Brexit will not be as severe as those of the virus. Stephen Ainsworth, head of mid corporate, Barclays Corporate Banking, Eastern Region (right), said: “While retailers and wholesalers have had no shortage of challenges and complications over the past few years, there is clearly an opportunity for the sector. Businesses have been forced to make big changes, and it seems that as a result, they are more agile and adaptable than ever. With the pandemic continuing to impact businesses across the UK, and the ‘return to normal’ likely to be a long way off, many of these changes will remain for the long term, leading to long-term change for the market.”

See Profile Barclays

Former Norwich shoe factory site sold for redevelopment for £1.5 million

A  2.2-acre site at Sprowston in Norwich which was formerly occupied by Start Rite shoes has been sold for £1.5 million to Boudica Developments which plans to develop a new care home for the elderly. Penn Commercial acted jointly with Roche Surveyors, for Saint Vincent Developments and Peter Colby Commercials on the sale. Vanessa Penn, managing director of Penn Commercial, said: "Penn Commercial is delighted to have sold this important site in Norwich, as one of many lettings and sales that we have transacted in the Norfolk area.”

Nicholas Clark, co-founder and director of East Anglia specialists Boudica Developments, said: “We are excited to finally bring this project forward, on what is a challenging site in the current difficult climate.  Avery Healthcare and Boudica Developments are seeking to raise the standards of care home/assisted living provision within the East Anglia region, and the proposed new flagship care home will be Avery’s first new home within Norfolk.”

See Profile Penn Commercial

Call for rail upgrade to tackle Ely bottleneck

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris is backing proposals for a nationally significant £500 million infrastructure upgrade to tackle train bottlenecks in the Ely area, despite dramatically rising costs on the project. The so-called Ely Area Capacity Enhancement is aimed at improving rail connections and reliability for passenger services and meet rising demand for rail freight between Felixstowe, the West Midlands and the north. The rail minister said the programme should be accelerated despite costs escalating to almost 20 times the original estimate. James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, said: “The local impact of freeing up the Ely bottleneck will be enormous, for example on the options to reconnect Wisbech by rail to Cambridge. And while this upgrade is of great national importance, linking places so as to unlock opportunities for growth – joining up to level up – it is of absolutely critical importance regionally if we are to get the East of England realising its full potential and punching its weight for UK Inc.”

Major homes estate in Thetford moves ahead with land sale

Plans for a major housing estate of 5 000 new homes near Thetford have moved ahead after developer Kier Living bought a 10.42 acre site at Kingsfleet, alongside the A11. The land has outline planning permission for up to 130 homes with 15 per cent affordable and construction is set to start next spring with the first units for sale by the winter. The deal was arranged by Savills Cambridge for Pigeon Investment Management and site owners Kilverstone and The Crown Estate. It follows the sale of a first parcel of land has been sold to regional housebuilder Hopkins Homes, which has started work on a first phase of 343 homes. A further 23 acres of land at an adjoining site with permission for 225 homes is also on the market with Savills.  The wider Kingsfleet development, also known as the Thetford North Strategic Urban Extension, is a 704 acre scheme with planning permission for 5 000 houses, 55.6 acres of employment land, three primary schools, open space and community and health care facilities. Tom Fraser from Savills Cambridge said: “Despite current economic uncertainty the site bought by Kier Living received good interest from both regional and national housebuilders. The East of England continues to be an attractive location for many people and land close to well-connected towns continues to be popular.”

Peterborough site acquired for major speculative industrial scheme

An vacant 8.63-acre site has been acquired in Peterborough for a speculative development up to 200,000 sq ft of industrial, roadside and trade space. A joint venture between developer Chancerygate and Bridges Fund Management is to submit plans to the local authority in the next four months for the scheme at Maskew Avenue, two miles north of the city centre. The site is next to Maskew Retail Park which includes B&Q, Matalan, Aldi and Argos as occupiers and its vendor was Wren Kitchens. Subject to planning, the jv has agreed the sale of one acre of the site to self-storage company Lok’nStore. The jv is also in advanced talks with drive-through food and beverage retailers. Chancerygate development director George Dickens, said: “We are looking forward to delivering much-needed, high quality accommodation for a wide variety of businesses.” Chancerygate and Bridges Fund Management have worked together on projects for more than ten years. Investments include the development of ‘The Curve’, a student housing development in London SE1.

Digital-learning specialist sold to private equity house

Skill Pill, a digital micro-learning specialist, has been sold to a private equity house, Aliter Capital. Cambridge-based PEM Corporate Finance advised on the sale of Skill Pill which produces video, animation and gamified eLearning content and whose content and blue-chip customer base complements Aliter’s existing digital learning group. Skill Pill is strong in business performance support, leadership, management, sales and personal effectiveness training and serves over one million learners in over 168 countries with customers such as the BBC, Fujitsu, John Lewis/Waitrose, Save the Children and the NHS.  Aliter Capital LLP focuses on small and mid-sized businesses in the UK support services sector and makes only a limited number of investments to deliver dedicated hands-on support. Aliter brought together Sponge and Bolt in 2019 with a view to creating a major new force in the growing learning technologies market. Gerry Griffin, founder and managing director of Skill Pill, said: "We are excited at the prospect of working with Aliter and becoming part of a group with Sponge, allowing us to expand Skill Pill's range further to create a dominant offer in quality, international digital learning. I’m grateful to Lake Falconer and the exemplary team at PEM Corporate Finance. They introduced us to the buyer and were there to support and reassure us every step along the way”.

Lake Falconer, partner at PEM Corporate Finance, added: “We’re pleased to have helped Gerry and Bronagh to find a strategic buyer to build on Skill Pill’s undoubted strengths in the digital learning market. To go from first meeting just before the March lockdown to completion in early November is a great example of using technology to run an efficient M&A process despite the current situation.”

See Profile PEM Corporate Finance

Law firm advises on sale of digital agency

Law firm Birketts has advised 7D Digital, an Essex-based development and design agency, on its sale to to Shoreditch-based Epsilon Telecommunications. Founded in 2015 by Russell Galpin, 7D Digital has been working with Epsilon since 2015 on the development of Infiny, a network orchestration and customer engagement platform. 7D Digital specialises in applications and solutions for various sectors including telecoms and travel and has been working with Internet of Things devices such as smart speakers. Founded in 2015 by Russell Galpin, 7D Digital has been working with Epsilon since 2015 on the development of Infiny, a network orchestration and customer engagement platform.Referring to Birketts, Russell Galpin said: “Their cumulative experience and use of lawyers from across their departments meant every aspect of our transaction ran smoothly. We are delighted to join our long-time working partners Epsilon, allowing us more time and energy to dedicate towards Infiny.”

The Birketts team was led by Heidi Jones (senior associate, corporate) and included James Stocker (solicitor, corporate), John Kahn (senior associate, corporate tax), Nicholas West (associate, employment) and Nahla Faiz (solicitor, property).

See Profile Birketts

Landmark takes shape on Felixstowe seafront

A steel frame has been erected for a new landmark café on Felixstowe’s south seafront as construction work continues on the project thanks to exemptions to the Covid-19 restrictions. Work started in August and is set for completion next summer, providing indoor and outdoor dining with views of the seafront. The project, which is being delivered by East Suffolk Council, Barnes Construction, the Dedham Boathouse Group, Plaice Design and Superstructures, involves installing the roof. Cllr Craig Rivett, East Suffolk’s deputy leader, said: “This project is hugely important to Felixstowe and the local economy as not only will it provide a new eatery next to the beautiful seafront, attracting both local people and visitors, it will also support economic growth and provide new employment opportunities as we hopefully begin to emerge from the impact of Covid-19."

Chris Bruce, pre-contracts director at Barnes Construction, said: "With the substructures now complete, we have reached a significant milestone in our construction programme and we look forward to seeing the building really taking shape over the next few weeks with the erection of the steel frame and formation of the roof structure.” The development is part of a series larger project in the south seafront area, where the Martello Park has delivered new homes, a play area and new car parking. The £1.5 million project is funded by East Suffolk Council and the Coastal Communities Fund.

Briefly…

New partners and promotions at accountants firm

Two new partners and four new associates have been announced by Whiting & Partners, independent accountants and business advisers. The new partners are: Jonathan Moore who currently works in the firm’s corporate services department and manages a range of larger SMEs and clients in the not-for-profit sector and Paul Jefferson, who has a wide client spectrum across the Huntingdonshire and West Cambridgeshire area and runs the firm’s activities from St Neot’s. The four new associates are Hannah Wisbey, Ben Beech, Scott Bishop and Nick Edgley.

Panel debate on ‘ education or experience’

The Institute of Directors Suffolk is hosting an online panel discussion later today to look at how organisations can ensure tomorrow’s workforce is prepared for a different working environment and the merits of education and experience to employers seeking new talent. The discussion on Monday, 16th November 2020 16.00-17.30 hours, will ask whether a degree holds more value than work experience and if it is time to demand both from prospective employees. Speakers include CEO of Creative Computing Club Matthew C. Applegate, interim chair for IoD Suffolk John Cockburn-Evans, Scrutton Bland partner Sue Gull, CEO and mentor Graham Kill and CEO and charity Upbeat Heart Support Patron Daemmon Reeve. The online event is open to IoD members and non-members and tickets can be booked on the IoD website www.iod.com/events-community/events/event-details/eventdateid/27776

Sense of business community prompts relocation to Haverhill

Metals Daily, a leading source of precious metals news, research and prices, has relocated from central London to the EpiCentre at Haverhill Research Park as part of an expansion into selling precious metals to private clients. The innovation centre’s operator Oxford Innovation has signed-up Metals Daily which is taking a 3-man office with plans to expand rapidly. Ross Norman, owner and CEO of Metals Daily, said: “We really like the idea of sharing business experiences with other companies in the building giving it a cross-between a conventional office and a Regus or WeWork flexible space, but with a more personalised feel. Cambridge is a very expensive location and hard to get into, so Haverhill as a satellite location gives you the benefits of the Cambridge Phenomenon without the price tag. In any event, the science and research parks are moving out in this direction as the Cambridge benefits ripple outwards."

New lease at Port of Ipswich

The Port of Ipswich, owned and operated by Associated British Ports, has signed a new lease with Express Freight Services which will provide secure vehicle storage and office space for the company. The new lease covers a 1.34 acres compound at the port’s West Bank Terminal where ABP has undertaken a range of works so that new offices could be installed.

Apprencticeship scheme at Cambridge company leads to career progression

A recruit at Cambridge company Domino Printing, which operates an award-winning apprenticeship scheme, has secured a place to study mechanical engineering at the University of Hertfordshire. Harry Grimwood, who joined Domino Printing as an apprentice in R&D two years ago, recently achieved outstanding marks in his BTEC Level 3, enabling him to study for a degree in tandem with his role at the company. After leaving sixth form with A-levels, he worked in supply chain and then welding before joining Domino as an apprentice in R&D, where he has gained experience in the machine shop, manufacturing engineering, systems and new product integration departments. Alongside this he attended college, studying for the qualifications. Since it was established in 2016, Domino’s apprenticeship scheme has taken on a total of 19 recruits across different areas of the business and this autumn the firm has taken on three new apprentices at its Bar Hill hq: Max Turner and Jonathan Elliot in electronics R&D and Dan Budd in operations. Joining during lockdown has meant adapting the training programme to allow remote working, with support from mentors at the company. Alicja Cunningham – HR business partner at Domino who leads the scheme, said: “Our apprentices are following the same guidance as the rest of our employees –  that is if they can work from home they are encouraged to do so. Their managers are in regular contact with them and I also catch up with them periodically to ensure that they are ok and that they have everything they need.”  Domino has won accolades for its apprenticeship scheme including being named one of the Employers of the Year by Cambridge Regional College and also Highly Commended for the Large Employer of the Year Award in the EEF Apprenticeship National Awards.