Saturday 31st July 2021
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 20/07/2021

Farmland market hots up as lifestyle and 'green' buyers bid for estates

The farmland market in England is busier than at any point in the past four years with demand outstripping supply and with many farms and estates attracting multiple bids and selling above the guide price. Over 70 per cent of farms and estates that have sold in recent months have exchanged hands for more than their guide as farmers, private investors, lifestyle buyers and green investors compete for land. Matthew Sudlow, head of estates and farm agency at land and property specialists Strutt & Parker, said: “It is not only the housing market that is busier than it has been for years, our agents involved with selling and buying farms and estates are also seeing strong demand. We are currently seeing multiple buyers for most of the farms we are selling, with some prime properties sparking bidding wars and selling for well in excess of their guide price. We have even seen some examples of gazumping, which is something we have not seen in the farmland market for the past five years." Strutt & Parker’s farmland database, which details publicly marketed farmland in England over 100 acres in size, shows 30,400ha of farmland came to the open market in the second quarter, well up on the 5,800 acres marketed in the first three months of the year. The proportion of farms bought by lifestyle buyers and private investors rose to its highest level on record – accounting for 45 per cent of transactions in 2020.

M & A and business spending set to rise as firms prioritise growth

Expansion through mergers and acquisitions is a higher priority for large companies than at any time in the past 11 years and spending by businesses is set to surge according to a national survey of chief financial officers from Deloitte. Expectations for an increase in hiring and investment are at their highest levels in almost seven years as growth emerges as the top priority. Some 71 per cent of  firms expect rises in capital expenditure and over three quarters anticipate increases in hiring over the year ahead, according to the survey of over 100 CFOs which included many FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies. Meanwhile, over half of firms have either reported a full recovery in demand for their businesses, or expect to do so by the year-end with 41 per cent reporting that demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels. Paul Schofield, South East practice senior partner at Deloitte said: “The national survey results reflect what Deloitte are seeing in the East and South East – significant demand recovery, an increasing focus on M&A and considerations of climate-related risks now coming to the fore.”

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Planning granted for major speculative industrial scheme in Peterborough

Planning permission has been granted for a major speculative development of two large industrial units in Peterborough due for completion next summer. Trebor Developments and Hillwood have been granted detailed consent for two units of 231,155 sq ft and 307,715 sq ft, on a 30-acre site which they have agreed to acquire from MARS Petcare UK. The scheme is being marketed as “Delta Park, Peterborough”. Greg Dalton, development manager for Trebor, said: “We are delighted to achieve this key milestone for Peterborough’s next major speculative industrial scheme, which continues to see significant demand from a wide range of occupiers.  The detailed planning is the next step in delivering this exciting project and we anticipate having these units available for occupation in summer 2022”.

Online electronics retailer opens bricks and mortar store in Norwich

Growing retailer Ultimo Electronics, which was previously online only, has opened a physical store in Norwich in what will be the first of three bricks and mortar locations planned in East Anglia. The firm, which specialises in providing refurbished mobile phones, is opening the shops after seeing increased demand from customers wanting to see products or receive in-person advice before making a purchase. To support its growth plan, Ultimo Electronics secured a £270,000 bespoke funding package from Lloyds Bank to buy and expand its premises to create retail space and additional production facility. Founded in 2014, the business employs 25 staff and has an annual turnover of more than £10 million and predicts its plans will triple its turnover over the next three years, creating around 30 new jobs. Josh Hannan, director at Ultimo Electronics, said: “Our physical stores will help us continue to build trust with our customers and provide a premium in-person experience that isn’t currently available from other second-hand retailers.”

New regional lead appointed for IoD in East of England

A former global hospitality executive, Cambs-based Richard Holdaway, has been appointed as the new regional lead for the Institute of Directors in the East of England. He joins the IoD from Corus and Laura Ashley Hotels and his role as senior branch manager will see him lead the organisation in the region and with plans for a series of local and regional events and collaborations already underway. Richard Holdaway said: “We have seen regional membership steadily growing in the last few months, which is a great indicator that our business community is ready to embrace new opportunities….we know our members have missed the business and social events we are so well-known for, so we are planning a calendar of events across the East that will also support some of the region’s outstanding hospitality venues.” IoD East recently announced the pilot launch of its Tomorrow’s Director Programme for students and entries open this month for the 2021 Director of the Year Awards.

Manufacturers set for expansion in third quarter

The majority of manufacturers in the East of England expect output to expand in the next quarter although whilst firms in the sector have seen conditions improve, the strength of the recovery in the region lags other parts of the UK. A report from Make UK and BDO also shows that trade frictions were behind a fall in the region’s dependency on the EU during 2020 from 49 per cent of exports to 46 per cent, just below the national average. Asia & Oceania, accounted for 20 per cent of the region’s goods exports followed by North America with 17 per cent. Charlotte Horobin, region director for Make UK in the East of England, said: “…the region has clearly weathered the storm and, given the innovation we have seen over the last year, together with the acceleration of new technologies there are very positive signs for the future success.”

Keith Ferguson, head of manufacturing for BDO in East Anglia, said: “It’s vital the government smooths out critical issues such as customs procedures to avoid adding more layers of complexity and allow local manufacturers to build back stronger and better as we enter the second half of the year.”

SMEs hungry for finance

SMEs in the East of England are showing a strong appetite for finance, despite having struggled with reduced cashflow during Covid-19, according to the British Business Bank. Research among small business finance intermediaries showed that confidence that the supply of debt finance will increase over the next 12-18 months is higher in the East of England than the UK average. In the East of England, it is expected that smaller businesses would require additional debt finance (88 per cent), growth stage equity (79 per cent) and alternative finance (71 per cent) over the next 12-18 months due to Covid-19, while 45 per cent of intermediaries reported that demand exceeds supply. Steve Conibear, UK network director, South and East of England at the British Business Bank, said: “The increasing demand for finance is a positive outcome as businesses focus on recovery, supporting both the East of England’s and the UK’s economic recovery.”

'Cool' new library building completed at Cambridge college

Construction work on a New Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge - which includes more than 17,000 sq ft of space set across three storeys, an archive store and an art gallery in the college grounds - has been completed. The project by Savills Cambridge building & project consultancy team reached practical completion earlier this year. Set next to the Grade I Listed C17th Pepys Library, the new building mixes traditional load bearing construction with specially handmade bricks and a contemporary Glulam structure imported from Switzerland. It has bespoke solid oak timber joinery throughout and large glazed windows with views across the Fellows’ Garden and the River Cam. Olly Diggins, associate in the Cambridge building & project consultancy team, said: “We are incredibly proud of the finished project, which has already received a number of  accolades including appearing in The Sunday Times architecture supplement as one of the top ten ‘coolest new buildings’ this year. The New Library both manages to stay true to its historical surroundings whilst also utilising state of the art technology and modern architecture.”

Business support advice on offer to growing companies at Epicentre event 

The EpiCentre at Haverhill is holding a free business support exhibition and networking event on Wednesday 21st July, where young, entrepreneurial and growing companies can seek advice from experts. It will be followed in the evening by a Tech & Beer networking event with business speakers.  Companies needing funding support from government and regional agencies or help with their business plan can attend the event at The EpiCentre in Haverhill from 9.30-3.30pm. EpiCentre centre manager Kelly Boosey said: “As we prepare to get ‘back to business’ post-Covid, many people are not aware of the support available to them locally to help with recovery, growth and acceleration. This is what our 21st July event is all about and kicks off a series events that we will be holding throughout the year and in the autumn as part of the West Suffolk Business Festival.” Exhibitors include the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce; New Anglia Growth Hub , Scale Up New Anglia and Peer to Peer Programme; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Authority Growth Hub and Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor, Innovate UK Edge, Cambridge Regional College, Keep+, MENTA. Click here for tickets.

Pilot scheme in Mid Suffolk launched to help start-ups grow

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council is inviting start ups to take part in a pilot scheme, Innovate Local, which will offer businesses the use of a market stall in Hadleigh or Stowmarket or working space at an innovation hub in Sudbury or Eye. Business owners  will receive a free pitch at either market for a set period along with mentoring and support. Cllr Michael Holt, Babergh District Council cabinet member for economic growth, said: “Hadleigh market is a popular shopping destination and a great place to showcase new businesses. Innovate Local provides a fantastic opportunity for new businesses to explore new opportunities with the support and advice to take their enterprise to the next level.” The scheme is open to businesses that have been operating for less than a year and do not currently have a place on a market and will be running until the end of December 2021.

Boost for Sizewell C supply chain team

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has invested in its team to encourage local and regional businesses to be prepared for commercial opportunities arising from the construction of Sizewell C nuclear power station, which is now being evaluated by the Planning Inspectorate. In addition to longstanding team members, procurement expert Miles Vartan and Angela Silburn, supply chain & projects coordinator, the team - now managed by Ashley Shorey-Mills - has been expanded by the recruitment of: Ian Currie, supply chain business manager; Julia Hale, supply chain business advisor; Samuel Kalibbala, supply chain business advisor and Elizabeth Dudman, supply chain events coordinator. Ashley Shorey-Mills said: “The Sizewell C supply chain is now at its greatest capacity ever with everyone ready to help all of 1400-plus Suffolk and East Anglian businesses already registered on the supply chain portal (https://www.sizewellcsupplychain.co.uk/). The team will be delivering a large number of events, both virtual and in person, in the coming months including meet the buyer events and networking suites.

Photo (l-r):Sam Kalibbala, Julia Hale, Ashley Shorey-Mills, Angela Silburn and Ian Currie.

Law firm highlights need to investigate workplace accidents

Suffolk law firm Prettys Solicitors is urging businesses to undertake a proper investigation following a workplace accident. An average of 250 workers are killed each year in the workplace, with a further 150,000 suffering major injuries, according to the HSE. Louise Plant (right), senior associate in Prettys Solicitors’ personal injury and insurances services team, said businesses can help to reduce the statistics if reactive measures are taken. “Without a thorough investigation to find out the cause of an accident and to investigate whether anything could have been done differently, businesses open themselves up to litigation and reputational damage, as well as sending a message to their employees that their health and safety is not taken seriously," she said. Even if an incident is a simple trip with minor injuries, some form of investigation will need to take place, such as filling out an accident report and considering what has happened.

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Resort secures major booking for summer and autumn events

Wyboston Lakes Resort on the Cambs/Beds border has secured a series of major bookings for conferences and events for July and August onwards. The resort’s Woodlands Event Centre is busy with events for a wide mixture of international brands, associations, consumer, and corporate organisations including Spa Life, trade association HBAA and Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine. All these events have been rescheduled because of the recent four-week delay to the government’s ‘roadmap’ for lifting restrictions. The venue has also secured several hundred thousand pounds of event bookings for global pharmaceutical brands due to take place in the autumn.

Broadband firm shortlisted for award

Essex-based County Broadband has been named as a finalist for the second year running in the Best Rural Internet Service Provider category at the ISPA Awards 2021, run by the Internet Service Providers’ Association. County Broadband, saw an 80 per cent  increase in data usage at the height of the first lockdown, is building new full-fibre broadband networks in hundreds of rural and remote villages in the region following a £46m private investment from Aviva Investors.

Bank extends Covid-19 support to charities

Barclays has extend its 100x100 Programme to support communities impacted by Covid-19 by opening applications for 50 further donations of £100k. The programme forms part of Barclays £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package, which has already supported 290 plus charities globally since April 2020. Barclays chairman Nigel Higgins said: “Our charity partners have been working tirelessly to support vulnerable communities across the UK through what has been a difficult year. These charities have championed a range of causes, including tackling homelessness, food poverty or loneliness, and we are immensely grateful for their work in the communities in which we live and work.From 12th July until Friday 06 August,   Barclays is inviting UK-registered charities*  to apply for the donations.

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