Saturday 23rd January 2021
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 30/11/2020

Bid launched for new freeport at ports of Felixstowe and Harwich

A bid has been launched for a new freeport centred on the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich which will act as a hub for UK importers and exporters with suppliers and customers worldwide. The government is inviting bids for seven new freeports to open in 2021 as part of at least ten to open across the UK. As well as tax breaks, freeports provide simplified planning rules and customs procedures.The promoters of Freeport East aim to take advantage of the good road and rail links to the Midlands and the north of England from the two ports - which are both owned by Hutchison Ports UK - to create a manufacturing, green energy and innovation hub which can exploit the region’s strengths in areas such as digital tech and the Internet of Things. The proposals which are being backed by local councils and LEPs, also highlight the area’s links to the clean energy sector, through the Galloper Windfarm maintenance base at Harwich.  George Kieffer, chairman of the project board, said: “I am excited to be leading such a professional and expert team to drive forward a bid that will attract major investment and lead to increased economic prosperity not only locally, but nationally. The area is home to some of the most deprived wards in the UK and by bringing lasting regeneration and creating new job opportunities to the region the project will support the government’s levelling-up agenda. We look forward to working with universities in the region to make Freeport East a hotbed of innovation in the technologies of the 21st century.”...Read more

Business confidence slides but vaccine raises hopes

Business confidence in the East of England fell 13 points during November to a net balance of -21% although encouraging news on a covid vaccine has raised hopes amongst firms across the country, says a business barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. Firms in the East region reported lower confidence in their own business prospects, down 25 points month-on-month at -20%. Meanwhile, a net balance of over a quarter of firms expect to reduce staff levels over the next year. Dave Atkinson, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Confidence has faltered against the backdrop of a new national lockdown. That said, businesses in the East of England have proved resilient during this crisis. While uncertainty remains, we may see confidence restore as vaccine developments provide hope for a viable Covid-19 exit strategy.” Nationally,  confidence fell in manufacturing, construction and retail as stricter lockdown measures

Separately, Richard Tunnicliffe, CBI regional director of East of England, said: “For many businesses in the East of England going into toughened tiers while waiting for a vaccine will feel like suspended animation. Some parts of the economy, such as retail, can begin to re-open and look towards a recovery. It gives our high streets a chance to rescue some of the vital festive trading period. But for other businesses the ongoing restrictions in tiers 2 and 3 will leave their survival hanging by a thread. Hospitality will remain frozen. And supply chains that cross regions in different tiers will be hit even if they don’t face direct restrictions."

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Occupational health specialist acquired for up to £4.5 million

Norfolk and Suffolk-based occupational health specialist firm Wrightway Health is to become part of specialist safety and regulatory compliance services group Marlowe in a £4.5 million deal facilitated by Lovewell Blake’s corporate finance team. Wrightway, which has its head office in Norwich, was established in 2013 and provides occupational health services to businesses in the east and southeast of England. Marlowe plc currently provides services to over 15 per cent of Britain’s commercial premises. Ashtons Legal also worked on the deal, which will see an initial cash consideration of £3.5 million paid for the firm, with an expected cash earn-out of £1 million. Alison Mackway, managing director of Wrightway Health, said: “It’s been a fantastic journey developing and growing Wrightway Health. Preparing for this we have worked with teams at local firms Lovewell Blake and Ashtons Legal, both of whom have been incredibly professional and hugely supportive. Marlowe has some ambitious plans that will be exciting to be a part of moving forward.”

Matt Crawley, corporate finance partner at Lovewell Blake, said: “This is a strong vote of confidence in a successful East Anglian company which has proved to be an attractive prospect for one of the UK’s leading players in the safety and regulatory compliance field.

See Profile Ashtons Legal

New law threatens business rescue, says insolvency body

A new insolvency law set to come into force this week which gives preferential status in insolvencies to HMRC poses ‘a significant threat’ to the survival of struggling businesses, according to the Eastern branch of insolvency trade body R3. It means that repayments to creditors by insolvent companies will be made to the Treasury, ahead of other creditors such as suppliers, lenders and pension schemes, who will be paid only when HMRC has been paid in full. R3 Eastern says the new law is badly-timed and will damage business finance and business rescue and hit jobs, livelihoods and the economy. R3 Eastern chair Alistair Bacon, of AMB Law in the region, said: “Now is not the time to increase the financial pressure on trade creditors, many of which may already be struggling due to a customer or supplier insolvency. It is also not the time to introduce a law which may affect business lending. Floating charge lenders - an essential source of finance for retailers and SMEs - have already warned that granting HMRC preferential status will limit the availability of this type of finance, which will have serious consequences for businesses who use it for business rescue or growth.”

Separately, the average time it took large businesses to pay supplier invoices lengthened by two days in the third quarter to 35 days in a sign that the Covid-19 cash crisis is beginning to bite, says a survey from BDO.

Region’s food and drink firms set to benefit from Canada trade deal

The region’s large food and drink manufacturing industry - which employs around 36,000 people - is set to benefit from the continuation of preferential tariffs on selling goods to Canada after the government signed a rollover trade deal. In all, some 1,325 of East England businesses exported goods worth £396 million to Canada in 2019, including £150 million worth of medicinal and pharmaceutical products. The new agreement ends uncertainty for UK businesses exporting goods and services worth £11.4bn to Canada last year and provides continued tariff-free access for 98 per cent of all UK products exported to Canada. DIT East of England’s deputy head of trade Thinley Topden said: “I would encourage businesses in the East of England to contact our team to see how we can help you discover exciting export opportunities in Canada and elsewhere to grow your business internationally.”

Queries over government 'rowing back' on broadband connections target

The chief executive of County Broadband, which is building full-fibre broadband networks across the region, has queried the government's decision to scale back its target for connections in rural areas. Lloyd Felton (right) said: “We welcome the publication of the much-delayed National Infrastructure Strategy although we’re perplexed by the government’s apparent rowing back on its flagship 2025 target. It’s clear that following the economic consequences of Covid-19, the government are in need of making spending cuts, but this must be done in the right way. Setting a new goal of 85 per cent UK-wide commitment is more realistic but it should be remembered fast and reliable full-fibre broadband, will be the pillar for the nation to ‘build back better’." He added: “Our concern is that the newly announced cuts in funding needed to connect the harder-to-reach areas is at odds with the previously published £5bn funding identified as needed to meet the government’s connection targets. We back calls that this level of funding should be ringfenced.”

Meanwhile, residents in Sudbury in Suffolk are being urged by community leader to back plans by Country Broadband to build a new full-fibre network which will transform the town’s digital connectivity. Around 8,000 homes are earmarked to receive the service which will provide speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps initially, upgradable to over 10,000 Mbps in the future, and which could be operational by spring 2022.

New finance director appointed to law firm

Ellisons Solicitors appointed Edward Gordon-Hall (right) as finance director. Joining the team from Druces in London he  will work across Ellisons’ offices in Essex and Suffolk and will be responsible for providing optimal financial management and strategic direction to the finance function of the firm. He will also be a key member of Ellisons’ management board.  With 22 years’ experience working within the legal sector, Edward Gordon-Hall specialises in law firm finance and management, tax and systems and has previously held the role of chief financial officer/finance director at high-profile London firms including Lewis Silkin and Olswang. Guy Longhurst, managing partner, at Ellisons said: “Edward brings with him an impressive wealth of experience gained from some of the top law firms in the country and we look forward to working with him. It is slightly strange circumstances for anyone joining a new organisation this year, however, it is also an exciting time to join Ellisons as we continue to support our clients and contacts in the region and into London."

Law firm shortlisted for three dealmakers awards

Law firm Birketts, has been nominated in three categories at the Insider Media Central and East of England Dealmakers Awards 2020. The firm's corporate team has been shortlisted for ‘private equity/venture capital deal of the year’, ‘deal of the year (below £10m)’ and ‘corporate law firm of the year’ (which Birketts has won for the last two years). Adrian Seagers (right), head of corporate services, said: "Despite being a challenging year for businesses, Birketts is proud not only to have adapted seamlessly to flexible working practices, but to have been able to continue to offer the high quality legal service we have become known for."

See Profile Birketts

Businesswoman wins financial adviser of the year award

Sharon Mattheus (right), a financial adviser at Lovewell Blake Financial Planning in Bury has been named as UK financial adviser of the year in Acquisition International magazine’s influential businesswomen awards 2020. She recently joined Lovewell Blake Financial Planning with a brief to expand the firm’s client base in Suffolk. “We are extremely proud of Sharon’s achievement, flying the flag both for women in business and for East Anglia,” said Robin Carnaby, director at Lovewell Blake Financial Planning.  “Accolades like this are important to highlight the role that women play in business, and to celebrate their success.” Lovewell Blake Financial Planning looks after around £400 million of clients’ investments and pension funds in East Anglia.

First offshore apprentices head into the wind

Following the UK's recent 'Wind Week', ScottishPower Renewables -  the developer of the East Anglia ONE windfarm - has appointed its first offshore wind apprentices. Locals 18-year-old Jovita Beeston from Norwich and 17-year-old Hope Reynolds from Lowestoft secured the roles as mechatronics maintenance apprentice technicians and are working on a three-year apprenticeship programme. They are working 30 miles off the Suffolk coast on the recently-completed East Anglia ONE windfarm and will receive on the job learning and work experience opportunities, which will bring classroom studies, such as programming and mechanical assembly, to life. Steven Hodger, principal site manager for East Anglia ONE at ScottishPower Renewables, said: “This is a really exciting time to be joining the offshore wind sector as it offers so many great career opportunities for young people. We received a fantastic response to our apprentice recruitment drive with over 150 quality applications. Over two-thirds of applicants were from the region including several women applicants - an encouraging response to our work to attract more women and local people into the industry.” ScottishPower Renewables has recruited 14 new graduates over the past two years and through an £80,000 sponsorship of the Offshore Wind Skills Centre, the company has secured places for 26 people to take training courses for those looking to start a career in the sector.