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Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 20/04/2021

Firms ‘may be in a better position’ despite rise in insolvencies

A marked increase in corporate insolvencies has highlighted the impact of Covid on the region’s business but local companies’ ability to ‘reinvent themselves’ over the past year gives grounds for optimism according to the Eastern branch of insolvency & restructuring trade body R3. Government figures show corporate insolvencies in England and Wales increased by 45 per cent to 992 in March, up from 685 in February. It follows 11 months of relatively low levels of company insolvency procedures. R3 Eastern chair Alistair Bacon, of AMB Law in the region, said: “The economic damage caused by the pandemic is only now starting to be revealed, as government support has postponed, rather than prevented, the true picture being reflected in insolvency levels. As lockdown restrictions continue to unwind, however, there is some cause to be optimistic. Many local businesses have adapted and reinvented themselves during the pandemic and may now be in a better position for the coming months.”

“We may also see consumer spending increase, but companies need to be aware of the risks of over-trading if they don’t have the cashflow needed to cover the full costs of reopening and restocking. It is crucial that directors and owners plan for a sustainable reopening of their businesses," he added.

Plans to dual A47 west of Norwich move closer

Plans for a new dual carriageway and junction improvements on the often-congested section of the A47 between North Tuddenham and Easton, west of Norwich, have moved a step closer after Highways England’s proposals were accepted by the Planning Inspectorate for examination. Highways England is improving the A47 in six places between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth as part of a £300 million-plus investment, including the Norfolk section between North Tuddenham and Easton. If a development consent order is granted, the transport secretary could give the green light for construction to start in two years. Highways England programme lead for the A47, Chris Griffin, said: “This stretch of road connects areas of growing economic activity around Norwich. The current layout of the road can act as a bottleneck, resulting in congestion and slower journey times. Our improvements will make shorten journeys while improving safety for the thousands of drivers who use this stretch of road daily, while also maintain connectivity and improving access for local residents."

Cllr Martin Wilby, chairman of the A47 Alliance and cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport at Norfolk County Council, said: “The A47 is crucial for the economic prosperity of Norfolk, connecting Norwich to Peterborough in the west and Great Yarmouth in the east. Thousands of our residents use the A47 for commuting, for seeing family, for trading, for holidaying, and far more.”

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Bury-based investment firm acquired by private equity group

Bury-based Beckett Investment Management Group has been acquired by a private equity group, Foresight. Founded in 1988 by out-going chairman Bob Beckett, the firm has 80 staff in four offices across the East and manages in excess of £775m of assets for over 2,900 clients. “Foresight’s investment will support the next phase of development and growth for our firm,” said managing director, Ian White. The deal is the third investment for the £100 million Foresight East of England Fund that targets equity investments in SMEs in the region and beyond. Malcolm Streatfield, who has wide experience in financial services, has become the new chairperson at Becketts. Matt McLoughlin, senior investment manager at Foresight said: “Bob, Ian and the team have built a successful business which demonstrates outstanding engagement with the people in its teams and in the communities it serves. The company is well-positioned for continuing growth and we look forward to working together in the coming years.” Legal advice for the deal was provided by Birketts and Freeths.

Photo(l-r): Malcolm Streatfield, Bob Beckett & Sally Austerberry, Ian White and Matt McCloughlin

Berth upgrades at Felixstowe to handle larger container vessels

The Port of Felixstowe is upgrading its deep-water berths and extending the reach of some of its cranes in response to the increasing size and depth of the world’s largest container vessels. One of its nine container berths, Berth 7 on Trinity Terminal, has been strengthened and dredged from 15m to 16.5 m below Chart Datum and the berth box widened from 55m to 70m. Further increases in depths at other berths are planned at the port and dredging by Harwich Haven Authority will increase the depth of the approach channel to up to 16 metres. Chief executive officer Chris Lewis said: As the number of ultra-large container ships continues to grow we will continue to improve and upgrade our facilities to meet the needs of our customers.” The 19,630 TEU Manila Maersk, operated on a service to Asia, was the first vessel to use the deeper berth. With a departure draft of 15.6 metres, the vessel was the deepest-ever to be berthed on Trinity Terminal. Boskalis Westminster was the dredging contractor for the project.

Call for next mayor to support manufacturers in Cambs and Peterborough

Manufacturers in Cambs and Peterborough are calling on the next mayor to deliver investment in jobs, infrastructure and green technologies to boost business productivity. According to industry body Make UK, they are seeking long term skills strategies to support firms and  support for projects like Cambridgeshire  Autonomous Metro and digital infrastructure including the new 5G enabled accelerator. Charlotte Horobin, Make UK region director – Midlands and East said: “The region benefits from a hugely diverse manufacturing base which drives growth and sees the East of England home to world leading business across aviation, pharma and defence alongside food and drink and advanced manufacturing. Building upon this, the Mayor must ensure that the region’s infrastructure is upgraded to boost future inward investment, and delivers an investment acceleration in digital and green technologies that will help create the upskilled and innovative jobs of the future.” Manufacturing in the East of England generates output worth £18 billion and provides 234,000 jobs.

Bellway has submitted plans to build 190 homes in Bramford, near Ipswich, to Mid Suffolk District Council. The housebuilder is hoping to develop a 32-acre site to the east of Loraine Way at the northern edge of the village and aiming to start construction at the end of this year. The scheme involves a mix of two, three and four-bedroom houses for sale, as well as 67 affordable homes for rent or shared ownership.

Bloodstock accountants combine to serve clients around Newmarket and beyond

Streets Chartered Accountants has expanded its specialism in the bloodstock industry by joining other firms in the sector to create Streets Bloodstock. It is coming together with the Newmarket practices of Mill House Bloodstock Services and Peppits Accountancy, which is headed by Robert Levitt and Sarah Watkins. Streets Chairman Paul Tutin said: “We are really excited about the new practice and the opportunity to become one of, if not the most respected firm of chartered accountants and tax advisers looking after those in involved in bloodstock. Whilst many of our existing clients are local to Newmarket we envisage, given the breadth and depth of specialist sector advice we can now offer, that we will attract clients nationally and even internationally."

Stowmarket-base firm supports Amazon’s fleet

Stowmarket-based EO Charging has designed, manufactured and installed a network of electric charging stations to power Amazon’s growing fleet of electric vehicles in the UK. The Suffolk-based firm has helped install charging stations at Amazon’s logistics sites in the UK and is providing software and maintenance services for the Amazon electric fleet in Europe. It  will support the addition of over 1,800 Mercedes-Benz zero-emission electric vehicles to the digital giant's fleet in Europe, including over 500 e-vans to deliver orders to customers in the UK. Charlie Jardine, CEO and founder of EO, said: “For us, this collaboration has been an amazing opportunity. It has sustained our growth even during a pandemic, allowing us to continue hiring locally. But it will also offer us the chance to reinvest in our technology and continue innovating.”

Harwich site sold for development

A 6.2-acre plot of green field land at Stanton Europark in Harwich has been sold to Burney Group for a leisure and trade development by joint agents Penn Commercial. Burnley plans to submit a planning application for phase one of the development, which will include a sixty-bedroom Travelodge Hotel and Drive Thrus, to include Starbucks for 23.5 Degrees Limited. Vanessa Penn, managing director of Penn Commercial, said: “Burney Group are going to develop an interesting leisure and trade scheme at Stanton Europark, subject to planning permission, and are attracting a number of major household names to invest in Harwich. The site is especially appealing due to its prominent location, adjoining Harwich International Port, and next to Morrisons, the Premier Inn and Lidl, with the Harwich Gateway Retail Park opposite.” Penn Commercial is also promoting a 2.1-acre second plot of green field land for sale at Stanton Europark.

Norfolk-based estate agent secures mortgage to continue expansion

Norfolk-based independent estate agents and lettings company, Minors & Brady, has secured a commercial mortgage from Barclays to purchase the freehold of its Dereham premises. The mortgage will give the firm security to continue its expansion plans by converting the first floor of the agency in the town's Market Place into further office space. Founded in 2014 by managing director Jamie Minors and Alex Brady, who joined him in 2015 as joint MD, the firm has grown significantly and after hiring three more staff, it now has 43 employees focused on residential sales, lettings and property management. It has offices in Wroxham and Caister-on-Sea, covering all of Norfolk and parts of Suffolk. Jamie Minors said: “The benefit of owning the freehold of our Dereham office means we can now move forward with the changes in line with our strategy to further expand across Norfolk with a further ten offices.  This has been driven mainly by the strong housing market we have continued to see in the county.”

Simon Elliott, Barclays business manager, Anglia, said: “The company has grown significantly over the years and the time is now right to make that investment decision to purchase the freehold premises of their Dereham office. This allows them the freedom to make changes to the first floor providing more room for their sales team.”

See Profile Barclays

Green investors buying farmland to manage biodiversity

Growing numbers of investors are buying farmland so they can manage it to improve biodiversity or generate carbon credits, says Strutt & Parker. “One of the most notable developments in the marketplace over recent months has been increased demand from green investors looking at alternative land uses to food production,” says Matthew Sudlow, head of estates and farm agency at the agency.  “We now receive phone calls on almost a daily basis from buyers interested in purchasing land to be managed environmentally – with their plans involving tree planting, rewilding and other conservation and carbon-offset projects. Interestingly, such buyers are starting to become active in lowland areas of England, as well as the uplands.”

Plans submitted for 190 new homes near Ipswich

Bellway has submitted plans to build 190 homes in Bramford, near Ipswich, to Mid Suffolk District Council. The housebuilder is hoping to develop a 32-acre site to the east of Loraine Way at the northern edge of the village and aiming to start construction at the end of this year. The scheme involves a mix of two, three and four-bedroom houses for sale, as well as 67 affordable homes for rent or shared ownership.

Promotion at Cambridge dealmakers to support growth plans

Philip Olagunju has been promoted to partner at Cambridge-based M&A boutique, PEM Corporate Finance. Over more than 15 years, he has built wide experience advising on management buyouts, acquisitions, company sales, and valuation projects and recently led MBOs at Falcon Cranes and COEL and the sale of Chell Instruments to SDI plc. Philip Olagunju (right) said: “Despite the recent challenges posed by the pandemic to clients, communities and the economy, PEMCF has remained busy over the last 12-18 months, completing a number of high-profile deals such as the sale of EAG to Elaghmore, the sale of MJog to Kry International AB and the sale of ATP Architects to RSK Group. Our pipeline remains strong, and I am looking forward to building on our recent transactional activity.”

Lake Falconer, partner at PEMCF who established the firm in 2004, said: “I would like to congratulate Philip on his well-deserved promotion. His promotion underlines the scale of ambition we share for growing our business in the region and we aim to continue providing the highest-quality service to our clients, as we have done consistently since 2004.”

See Profile PEMCF

Busy start to 2021 for law firm’s corporate deal team

The corporate, commercial, and banking team at law firm Howes Percival has seen an ‘incredibly busy' start to 2021, completing 32 deals in the first quarter, with a combined value of £263 million. The firm has invested heavily in the area and restructured and increased the size of its corporate, commercial, and banking team by 50 per cent to over 30 fee earners in little over two years. Deals have included acting on the sale of Northants-based business Signature Ribbon Company to Cole Fabrics Plc and on the MBO of Falcon Tower Crane Services and Tower Crane Asset Management Holding from the founding shareholders. Corporate partner Andy Harris said: "Despite the unusual circumstances, we've had an extremely strong start to 2021, I think partly fuelled by the speculation over possible changes to CGT rates, but also because there is significant appetite to acquire good businesses with strong customer bases in the more Covid-resilient sectors. Deal values seem to be holding up, with many existing business owners looking to secure an exit, and extract value from their life's work, and it helps that the debt market now includes a wider range of potential funders in addition to the traditional larger banks."

Funding for Cambridge company to tackle antibacterial resistance

Cambridge-based Phico Therapeutics, which is working on a new generation of antibiotics to overcome antibacterial resistance, has been awarded a grant of up to £13.2 million from Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator, a global non-profit partnership dedicated to accelerating research in the area. The funding will support the progression of Phico’s lead product SASPject™ PT3.9 through clinical trials. Dr. Heather Fairhead, Phico founder and CEO said: “…I am delighted to now look forward to progressing our lead product to clinical trials and developing a product pipeline that will advance the science of antibacterial therapy and in time, save millions of lives round the world.”

Plans submitted for 190 new homes near Ipswich

Bellway has submitted plans to build 190 homes in Bramford, near Ipswich, to Mid Suffolk District Council. The housebuilder is hoping to develop a 32-acre site to the east of Loraine Way at the northern edge of the village and aiming to start construction at the end of this year. The scheme involves a mix of two, three and four-bedroom houses for sale, as well as 67 affordable homes for rent or shared ownership.

New almshouses open doors to first residents

A Cambridgeshire town charity has completed three new almshouses and opened the doors to the first occupants. Girton Town Charity has increased its housing provision for local residents by funding the construction of three cottages at Suffolk Terrace, available to those with a close connection to Girton, for a three-year appointment. Florence and Callum who both work at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, were among the first residents. Ann Bonnett, chair of Girton Town Charity, said : “As an almshouse charity, we are delighted that Suffolk Terrace is now completed and to welcome our new residents, including Florence and Callum, who can really benefit from having the time to save for their own home, whilst living near to family. Godfrey & Hicks were the appointed contractors on the project.

Photo (l-r): Florence and Callum receive the keys to their new home from Ann Bonnett, chair of Girton Town Charity.