Monday 01st March 2021
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 15/02/2021

BT set to recruit as Ipswich R & D hub emerges as ‘key site’ for company’s future

BT is planning to recruit staff at its R &D base at Adastral Park, near Ipswich, after it emerged as a key site for the company’s future under a ‘consolidation and modernisation’ programme. Although this will involve the telecoms company cutting the number of its locations from around 300 nationally to 30, it plans to recruit some 78 apprentices and graduates at Adastral Park from this September, including roles in cyber security and applied research. Meanwhile, Openreach, its digital network business, is set to create 295 full time engineering jobs across the East this year. Adastral Park directly employs 8,560 people, with a further 394 as contractors. As part of a ‘better workplace’ programme, the group plans to open a new hq in London later in 2021 and new ‘strategic hub’ locations in major cities including Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. Jane Thomas, BT Group regional lead for the East of England, said: “At an important time for our region, our spending on people, networks and suppliers, provides a vital economic boost. The wider impact of that spending helps to sustain communities and small businesses right across the region.” A recent report showed that BT Group employs one in every ten employees in ICT in the East of England and supports some 54,700 jobs in total in the region either directly or through its £1.5 billion annual spending with suppliers and contractors.

Housebuilder buys land for 1100 new homes outside Ipswich

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson has bought 88 acres of development land for 1,100 new homes and community facilities north of Ipswich in a sale completed by agent Fenn Wright for private clients. The land forms the western half of the housebuilder’s Henley Gate scheme, part of the wider Ipswich Garden Suburb, a strategic allocation of land for around 3,500 homes. Outline planning permission was granted in January 2020 for the Henley Gate scheme which will also include a new 75 acre country park and other community and shopping facilities. A reserved matters application has been submitted for the first phase of housing, infrastructure and the country park. Alistair Mitchell, partner at Fenn Wright, said:“It took a great deal of time and patience to negotiate and conclude this transaction for all parties concerned. However, we are delighted to have completed the sale on behalf of our clients and wish Crest Nicholson every success with their scheme which we look forward to seeing unfold over the coming years”. Fenn Wright is also marketing a further 7.45 acre site in Westerfield, where it has received strong interest.

Separately, a joint venture to promote a new development founded on ‘garden city’ principles, on over 1,350 acres of strategic land at Westley Green east of Cambridge has been launched by The Hill Group and L & Q Estates. The two developers were selected by the landowner to promote the scheme, with potential for up to 8, 500 homes, to the emerging Greater Cambridge and East Cambridgeshire local plans.

See Profile Fenn Wright

MBO at Suffolk-based engineering business

Suffolk-based engineering business Glasswell & Last has been acquired by its management team Philip Hudson, Neil Kilbourn, Mathew Harris and Johnathan Hall. Forward Corporate Finance acted as lead advisor to the management team who acquired the business out of family ownership. Founded in 1976, G & L is a mechanical, electrical instrumentation, control and automation business operating from Bury and with a strong presence and longstanding links in the utilities sector. The firm employs around 30 people and works on contracts ranging from £50k to £3 million, providing solutions covering design, fabrication, installation and maintenance of facilities, mainly across the East. The deal comes as a new five-year asset management period is starting for the utilities and as construction work in the region is holding up. Philip Hudson said: “Forward have been invaluable to us through this journey. They raised the funding for us early in the process and gave us the confidence to navigate our way through a deal. We ultimately ended up in a great place for the vendors, the company, its staff, customers and suppliers…”

Rob Dukelow-Smith, director Forward Corporate Finance, said: “We are delighted to have assisted a strong management team to become business owners and I’m certain they’ll drive the business forward over the coming months and years.” Legal advice for the management team was provided by Mark Whittaker at Greene & Greene, and the vendors were advised by Daniel Mead at Mead Accounting, plus Geoff Hazlewood at Ashtons Legal. Triple Point, led by relationship director Reece Digance, provided funding for the deal.

See Profile Forward Corporate Finance

Private equity firm invests in specialist plant maintenance group

Law firm Birketts has advised a private equity firm, Foresight Group, on the acquisition of Essex-based Plantexpand, a specialist plant and vehicle maintenance provider to the utilities sector. Founded in 1984, Foresight is a leading independent infrastructure and private equity investment manager with over £6.8 billion of assets under management. It has made a £5 million investment to support the buy-in management buy-out of Plantexpand, in a deal intended to accelerate growth via new management. It is being made by the £100 million Foresight East of England Fund which invests in growing SMEs across the region. Founded in 1987, Plantexpand operates across the South East and its clients including Thames Water, UK Power Networks, the AA and National Grid. The Birketts team acting for Foresight was led by Adam Jones (corporate) and included James Stocker (corporate), Clare Barlow (employment), Devreaux Gravell (banking and finance) and Nahla Faiz (property).

See Profile Birketts

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Flurry of M & A activity predicted to continue into 2021

After a busy year for mergers and acquisitions in East Anglia last year, 2021 is set to see similar levels of activity, according to Matt Crawley, head of corporate finance at Lovewell Blake. He has reported a busy pipeline of deals throughout the year, with little sign that Covid is dampening appetites for the sale and purchase of businesses. Lovewell Blake advised on over 50 assignments during 2020, with high-value deals sealed in a range of sectors. Matt Crawley (right) said: “As we have moved into 2021 there are a great number of conversations taking place, providing indications that this year is going to continue to be extremely active. As the region starts to emerge from the pandemic once the vaccination programme is rolled out more widely, I predict that the flurry of activity will continue, as investors seek to capitalise on any post-Covid bounce by investing and acquiring businesses before the growth curve.’’

Site next to Harwich International Port for sale

Penn Commercial is offering Stanton Europark, a prime 8.2-acre development site next to Harwich International Port, for sale for £1.5 million freehold. The site comprises two undeveloped lots of greenfield land and with vacant possession. Vanessa Penn, managing director of Penn Commercial, said: “With its strategic links next to Harwich International Port and excellent access to the A12, via the A120, and the M25, Stanton Europark would be ideal for a depot, transport yard, plant hire company or lorry park. It would be particularly suitable for a company already based in Felixstowe, with ties to Harwich International Port.”

Institute of Directors seeks new Norfolk chair

The Institute of Directors is seeking a new chair to become the voice of business for Norfolk and to represent its members as well as leading the organisation’s growth and influence in the county. It is a voluntary position and the chair will promote the profile of the IoD across the Norfolk region by engaging with local businesses and other stakeholders including inward investors, local authorities and universities. Biplab Rakshi (right), IoD East of England regional chair, said: “Norfolk is a thriving and dynamic business community with a reach far beyond its borders. Our new Norfolk chair will share our passion and commitment to represent the voice of the county’s members and enable positive change and opportunities for local business leaders.” The role has a three-year term. Interested candidates should send their CV and covering letter to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   by close of business on Monday 1st March 2021 or get in touch for an informal talk about the role. Interviews will take place  in the week starting 8th March.

Cambridge company marks National Apprenticeship Week

Cambridge-based Domino Printing is marking National Apprenticeship Week, (8th-14th February), by paying tribute to its apprentices. The company, a leading global manufacturer of industrial coding, marking, and digital printing technology and with an hq at Bar Hill, is in its sixth year of running a structured apprenticeship scheme which recruits new entrants annually. The scheme has taken on a total of 19 recruits across different areas of the business, who benefit from experience in the workplace combined with developing academic and vocational skills. It will be launching its 2021 scheme later this year. Domino CEO Robert Pulford, CEO who started his own career in an apprenticeship role, said: “I didn’t really plan to follow the apprenticeship route as a first step after school, it was more a steer from friends and family. I’ve subsequently completed further formal qualifications through my career, and feel that becoming CEO was a result of some hard work, commitment, and some good luck. I’m convinced though, that being an apprentice helped shape me in being both ‘rounded’ and ‘grounded’ in my outlook to life, and business. There is no right or wrong, and I’d say progress is more about attitude than qualification, but I’d have no hesitation in recommending the apprenticeship route as a path to those considering it.”