Monday 20th September 2021
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 14/09/2021

Optimistic firms continue to recruit despite slowdown in growth

The pace of recovery in business activity in the region slowed in August but private firms are continuing to recruit strongly and remain optimistic whilst the recent upturn in inflation has eased, according to a key survey of purchasing managers. The NatWest East of England PMI business activity index fell from 60.0 in July to 54.5 in August, although growth was still strong by historic standards. New business won by private firms slowed but remained healthy with service providers seeing a quicker increase in new orders than firms producing goods. A future activity index moderated in August but stayed above 50, signalling a high level of optimism among firms in the East. Firms are hopeful for strong domestic demand and as supply chain pressures ease. Meanwhile, the rate of growth in staffing levels quickened in August, rising for the eighth time in nine months on hopes for higher sales and on the need to clear backlogs of work. After increasing in each of the past six months, the rate of cost inflation slowed in August to the softest since May. But higher transport, staff and raw material costs (especially for steel and cardboard) are still driving inflation and charges by firms rose sharply, particularly amongst manufacturers. John Maude, NatWest Midlands & East regional board, said: "…firms continue to add to their workforces in order to boost output, while price pressures have started to moderate. At the same time, local firms remain strongly optimistic about the outlook, hoping that supply pressures will ease and any future lockdowns can be avoided."

Boom in US investment in British high-growth firms bodes well for Cambridge

The appeal of UK businesses to international investors, particularly from the US, has been highlighted by a new report showing high-growth British companies have raised £19 billion in the last three years in deals involving foreign investors. The report, ‘Trading Places’ from Barclays and Beauhurst, shows that nearly half of total equity investment in high growth firms has been funded by deals with at least one foreign investor. It points to a boom in American investment in UK high-growth firms, with US investors involved in deals worth £4.5 billion in the last year. The total value of deals involving US investors was up 620 per cent during the past decade. Equity investment into software companies was the most popular among international investors between 2011 and 2020 followed by internet platform, mobile app and analytics companies. Dr. Bipin Patel, CEO & founder of electronRx, an AI-driven consumer insights platform based at Barclays’ Eagle Lab in Cambridge, said: "….Our international investments helped us to significantly grow out our team in the midst of the pandemic, to continue to make new client partnerships and secure numerous clinical trials to collect the data we need as our tech moves towards regulatory approval. We look forward to once again sharing our vision and progress with international investors in our upcoming Series A round."

The report also shows the value of deals involving EU investors hit a high at £2.4 billion in 2019 and Innovate UK gave £1.1 billion in grants to high growth firms in 2020. Katherine Morgan, head of high growth and entrepreneurs at Barclays, said: “More people are considering starting a business now than ever before, and it’s no surprise given the success of our home-grown entrepreneurs, many of whom have skilfully utilised international markets, generating new jobs and driving economic growth." ...Read more

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Chamber calls for a ‘break from burdens’ as business investment forecast to fall

Suffolk businesses need a break from further burdens in the light of forecasts that investment by companies is set to fall, according to Suffolk Chamber. Despite forecasting record gdp growth of 7.1 per cent this year, the British Chamber of Commerce is predicting business investment will fall by 2.5 per cent in 2021 and will end 2023 some 5.4 per cent below its pre-pandemic level. Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of policy & communications, said: “This mixed picture nationally is certainly reflected in what our members here in Suffolk are saying to us. At this crucial stage in our economic recovery, declines in business investment – whether that be in new equipment, processes or training staff – is storing up bad news beyond the immediate next few quarters.” He added: "Whilst labour and price inflation, staff shortages and other supply chain issues are at the heart of these declines in investment, Suffolk Chamber is worried that government policy is actually creating further obstacles. These include a lack of flexibility in the Home Office’s response to some short-term staff shortages and this week’s announcement of a 1.25 per cent increase in employer National Insurance contributions, which come after those tax increases announced in March’s budget.”

Cambridge lands major international events worth £1.5 million to local economy

Meet Cambridge, the conference and events bureau, has helped to secure three high-profile international congresses, which will deliver an economic impact of around £1.5 million to the city. The bureau has supported three local organising committees through its Conference Ambassador Programme to win bids against competition from other international destinations. Following Cambridge’s success against Shanghai, the 16th Symposium of the International Neurotrauma Society – NeuroTrauma 2024 – will bring around 700 leading scientists from around the world to the city in August/September 2024 and the first time the six-day event has been held in the UK. Meet Cambridge’s support included producing a video and a comprehensive bid document, arranging site visits, venue-finding and liaison. Meanwhile, The International Association of Music Libraries is organising a five-day event in July/August 2023 to be attended by 400 delegates and including plenary sessions and social activities.The third bid won is the International Organization For the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease over four days in early 2023, with 115 delegates. Judith Sloane, head of Meet Cambridge, said: “It is such welcome news that Cambridge has been selected for these high-profile international events against stiff global competition. Not only does it reinforce our city’s continuing appeal to associations, it also signals confidence in a return to in-person meetings following the pandemic.”

Photo: The NeuroTrauma 2024 local committee (l-r) Adel Helmy; Dr Virginia Newcombe; Carole Turner; Tamara Tajsic; Prof Peter Hutchinson;  Prof Marek Czosnyka; Suzy Howes;  Prof David Menon; Judith Sloane (Meet Cambridge); Dr Ari Ercole; and Dr Peter Smielewski.

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First apprentices start at law firm offering an alternative training route

Ellisons Solicitors has appointed its first seven apprentices to its offices across Essex and Suffolk in a move which offers an alternative training route to allow more people to follow a career path without the need for university. The seven apprentices, who started this week, join a further five new trainee solicitors at the firm. Managing partner Guy Longhurst said: “At Ellisons, we understand what would-be solicitors need to succeed both for themselves and for the firm. Training the next generation of solicitors has always been a priority for Ellisons and we are delighted to welcome our first seven apprentices to the firm along with our next trainees. Through our dedicated training and development programme, and their enthusiasm, we know they are destined for success at Ellisons.” The solicitor apprentices will combine the skills they learn in their day-to-day work at Ellisons with study modules set by training provider BPP. The move allows would-be solicitors to train over six years without the need for university, and the fees that come with it. The firm has also announced the launch of the Ellisons Academy which will offer a tailored programme of leadership and management skills courses, supported by coaching and mentoring, to help people progress through their career with the firm.

Will Quince, MP for Colchester and former solicitor, said: “… Investing in people pays dividends for businesses and I am delighted that Ellisons is making this investment and giving young people an opportunity to build their careers and develop skills here in Colchester.”

Photo: The new apprentices at Ellisons Solicitors.

New appointment at law firm's shipping team

Birketts’ shipping and international trade team has appointed a new experienced costs lawyer, Kelly Townshend (right). She has more than 20 years’ experience and will be providing mediation on costs and arbitrators in costs disputes, as well as advice on disputes between solicitors and their clients. Kelly Townshend said: "Birketts’ reputation for top client service is so important in shipping matters, as businesses in this industry are frequently balancing a number of deadlines and priorities alongside legal disputes. The advice Birketts’ lawyers give cuts straight to the heart of the matter and my work as a costs lawyer will provide even greater clarity for our clients.”

Henry Adams, partner and head of Birketts’ shipping and international trade team, said: “…The shipping and international trade team continues to be incredibly busy in a rising shipping market. With the firm’s advanced IT capabilities, working remotely has proved to be seamless so that the team are capable of providing a truly world-wide, world class service without having to be based exclusively in London.”

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Tools wholesaler expands in Bury

Tools wholesaler Sealey has acquired a one acre development plot for expansion next to its existing site in Bury St Edmunds on Suffolk Business Park. Sealey group projects director Mark Sweetman said: “We are delighted to have secured this parcel of land adjacent to our current site which will allow us to expand our QC, marketing and warehouse facilities. This will help facilitate further growth of the business which in turn will create further opportunities for current staff and new openings as we look to grow the team.” Eddisons acted for the vendor on the sale.

Warning on furlough fraud enquiries

Mid-market businesses in the East should prepare for a flood of letters from HMRC as furlough draws to a close and the government looks to recoup a suspected £7bn of fraudulent or erroneous Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claims, according to Grant Thornton. HMRC’s Taxpayer Protection Taskforce is up to strength, following a recruitment drive to hire more than 1,200 investigators since March. David Francis, a former tax inspector, now partner and tax disputes expert at Grant Thornton for the East England region, said: “Come September, we’re expecting that a number of businesses across the East of England will be opening a letter inviting them to enter a Contractual Disclosure Facility under COP9. This lets the recipient know they’re suspected of deliberate fraud and offers them protection from criminal prosecution; on the proviso they come completely clean, disclose any tax errors over the last two decades, and repay the amount owed.”

New café at research park to encourage networking and growth

Businesses, musical talent and a local celebrity gathered recently to support the opening of Cool Beans, a new café at The EpiCentre on the Haverhill Research Park. At a ribbon cutting ceremony, West Suffolk councillor Susan Glossop said: “The opening of the Cool Beans Café will further enhance the EpiCentre in terms of what it can offer to businesses in the Haverhill area, encouraging networking, growth and support. This café space will serve as the catalyst for many productive and innovative conversations which I hope will lead to future collaborations and success.”

Kelly Boosey, EpiCentre centre manager, said: “The vision for The EpiCentre is to create a vibrant business community and encourage collaborative conversations over a coffee and a bite to eat. Cool Beans café further adds to the attraction of the centre both for the occupiers and as an informal space for members of the public from surrounding areas to drop in for coffee, hold meetings and make use of the Wi-Fi. And all without having to book space.”

Photo: Susan Glossop, Dennis Caswell and Scott Russell.

Staff member at Cambridge company retires after 40 years service

Cambridge company Domino Printing is saying farewell and thank you to one of its longest-serving members of staff who is retiring after 40 years. Kenn Martin (photo, right) is leaving Domino Printing after working in a variety of roles, ranging from a service engineer to his last position as senior software engineer. He joined the company in September 1981 – along with 13 others – and recalls that in the first month four ink jet printers were produced and installed. As test, installation and service engineer, his work was very varied, often involving impromptu travel, going to Europe and back in a day to service customers’ machines. He then moved from to software development, with responsibility for writing software to make the printer more user friendly. He later set-up the first email server in Domino. Kenn Martin said:“How things have changed during my time with the company! Over the years, Domino has been like an extended family to me, and I will miss everyone in my retirement. Although most of us have been working from home there has always been a warm welcome whenever I have been into the office.”

CEO Robert Pulford added: “We wish Kenn a long and happy retirement and thank him for his loyal service with us. During his time here he has seen so many changes as the business has developed and diversified and as with other long-serving members of staff, we are extremely grateful for his valuable input on our journey.” Domino has 76 employees across the group with more than 30 years’ service.


September 2021