Monday 27th June 2022
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 14/06/2022

Business activity slows but firms remain upbeat

The growth in private business activity in the region slowed to a five month low in May but firms still saw a moderate rise in new orders and many remain upbeat on the outlook for the next 12 months, according to a key survey of purchasing managers. The NatWest East of England PMI business activity index fell from 57.1 in April to 51.7 in May; the second month running the growth rate has slowed. Although confidence weakened as economic concerns mount, a future activity index for the region covering the next 12 months registered well over 60 (where 50 denotes growth). Firms linked optimism to improving market conditions, new client wins, launches of new products and stronger demand. Employment also rose strongly in May although the pace of recruitment growth eased and the backlog of work outstanding in the region fell modestly. Meanwhile, costs continued to rise steeply with input price inflation at a near-record high due to rising energy, labour and material costs along with supply shortages and the war in Ukraine. John Maude, NatWest Midlands & East regional board, said: "The slowdown across the East of England's private sector was reflective of the growing global uncertainty and persistent inflationary pressures.”

Ipswich joins initiative to save struggling high streets

Ipswich has been named as one of five towns to pilot a Community Improvement District initiative to boost high streets visitor numbers which are still 14 per cent down on pre-Covid levels. Community Improvement Districts aim to provide local people, and community organisations, as well as businesses, a say over the strategic direction of local high streets. They aim to build on the Business Improvement Districts initiative. The other towns involved in the pilot are Skelmersdale, Lancashire; Hendon, Sunderland; Stretford, Gtr. Manchester and Wolverton, Milton Keynes. Kilburn High Road and Wood Green, in north London were named England’s first Community Improvement Districts earlier this year. Jenny Sansom, community improvement district pilot lead at Power to Change, said: “ In Scotland, Community Improvement Districts are already reinventing towns by empowering communities, alongside local businesses and councils, to set the direction for their high street. Rolling out this approach in England has the potential to turn the tide on decline by acting as a catalyst for bold, creative high streets that move beyond the outdated retail-dominated model and offer people services and experiences not available online.” British Retail Consortium figures reflect fragile confidence among shoppers with overall visitor numbers to UK high streets, shopping centres and retail parks last month down 12.5 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

Lab space sold before completion as demand from biotech sector hots up

The upsurge in demand for space for life sciences firms in the Cambs area has meant five new dedicated laboratory units at The EpiCentre innovation facility in Haverhill have been taken up before completion. Companies taking up the new units include Analog Devices which is expanding at the site and ExpressionEdits, a new occupier taking three lab spaces and which is a spin-out from the department of medicine at the University of Cambridge. Centre manager Kelly Boosey said: “We were not surprised that the space has been filled so quickly. Companies may start off in the all-inclusive shared tissue culture and microbiology laboratory with an allocated bench, then move on to their own dedicated lab space, plus at the same time they may wish to obtain one of the office spaces on the floors above to locate their admin teams.”

Nic Rumsey, managing director of Jaynic, which owns the EpiCentre, said: “We are investing in more laboratory space because there has been a substantial upsurge in life science and bio-tech research and, of course, the Cambridgeshire area is at the leading edge of this trend.”

Separately, Jaynic has entered into a land promotion agreement with the owner on a 270-acre site near the A14 next to Abbots Vale in Bury which has planning consent for 1,250 homes and  community facilities including a new primary school. The entire site has been identified in the West Suffolk Local Plan in anticipation of a significant new residential-led mixed use scheme involving over 1800 new homes.

See Profile Jaynic

Law firm advises US investor on major franchise deal

The franchising and corporate teams at law firm Ashtons Legal have advised a US investor on its purchase of 32 UK stores of Papa Johns’, a pizza restaurant chain. HB Pizza, the UK investment arm of one of the largest US Papa John’s franchisees, PJ Restaurants, has acquired 32 sites in the north of England in a multi-million pound purchase. Ashtons’ negotiated the franchising arrangements and advised on the TUPE implications of more than 450 staff and new sub-leases for each site. The firm also advised the purchaser on new banking facilities and security from Santander and other corporate advice. Damian Humphrey (photo,right), Ashtons’ head of franchising, led the deal supported by David Sloman from the firm’s corporate and commercial side, Colin Makin in employment, Geoff Hazelwood on the banking and finance aspects and Ian Hylton on commercial property. Damian Humphrey said: “We are delighted to have assisted HB Pizza on their entry and investment into the UK franchise market….As experienced multi-site franchise owners in the US they will bring considerable expertise and resources to the Papa John’s network in the UK, benefitting the brand and consumers.”

See Profile Ashtons Legal

New wealth management & investments appointments at Barclays

Barclays Wealth Management & Investments in the East region has made four new appointments to support clients. Greig Townsend has been appointed team manager, East Region, responsible for a team of wealth managers focused on building relationships with clients to provide a tailored wealth management approach. He joins from Santander, having previously worked at Barclays for six years as a portfolio manager and private banker. and reports to Paul Shaw, head of London and South East, Barclays Wealth Management & Investments. Meanwhile, Benjamin Lamers (photo, right) has been appointed East region director, Barclays Wealth Management & Investments and joins from Brown Shipley, where he previously worked as a client director and prior to that worked at Julius Baer and Merrill Lynch for 14 years. Meanwhile, Scott Heslin and Rob Houston were appointed wealth managers in April covering the East region, joining from Brewin Dolphin and Barclays Premier respectively. Paul Shaw, said: “I’m pleased to welcome such strong talent to the Barclays Wealth team and look forward to working with them in driving the growth of our Wealth Management business in the East region.”

Property agency to sponsor The Suffolk Punch Trust

Property agency Penn Commercial is to become a major sponsor of The Suffolk Punch Trust, based at Hollesley, near Woodbridge. Under a new sponsorship deal, Penn Commercial will support The Suffolk Punch Trust as its corporate charity for the next 12 months, donating £15 per commercial property transaction that it carries out. The trust was founded to help protect the critically endangered Suffolk horse through its established breeding programme, raising public awareness and training a new generation of professionals to work with the heavy horses. Vanessa Penn, managing director of Penn Commercial, said: “ The Suffolk Punch is the oldest English breed of working horse and we wanted to be able to offer our support in some way to be able to help to preserve this proud icon of our county – not least because we have a number of supporters of Ipswich Town Football Club in our team, whose mascot is Bluey the Suffolk Punch!” Penn was named top-performing agent in Suffolk in EG’s industry rankings for 2021 having transacted nearly 70 deals; a figure it is aiming to beat over the coming year.

Photo: Vanessa Penn (right) with The Suffolk Punch Trust visitor centre manager, Sonja Moon


Manufacturing jobs lost

The East of England has lost around 20,700 manufacturing jobs during the pandemic, according to figures from the GMB trade union. They point to a near-eight per cent fall in permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs in the region from 265,300 in 2019 to 244,600 by the start of this year. Charlotte Childs, GMB national officer, said: “More than 20,000 manufacturing jobs lost during the pandemic is devastating for communities in the East of England. The race to net zero could revolutionise UK manufacturing; tens of thousands of new, green jobs in wind, solar, nuclear, and more. Instead, this government seems determined to let them all disappear overseas.”

Land transfer secures Cambridge country park

Grosvenor Property UK and the Universities Superannuation Scheme have agreed terms for a financial endowment to the Wildlife Trust to secure the future of a 148-acre country park and nature reserve at Trumpington Meadows, a 1,200-home neighbourhood in Cambridge. It comes 10 years after the first residents moved to the development, which is now reaching maturity as a community on the southern fringe of the city.

Full fibre broadband to be rolled out in Cambs village

Netomnia, a wholesale fibre broadband operator, is rolling out its full fibre multi-gigabit network to around 7,500 premises in Doddington in Cambs as part of an investment of up to £2.25 million in the area. Netomania chief executive officer Jeremy Chelot said: "No one should be left out of having access to ultrafast broadband, especially when it can support growth and development in the local area."

Cambridge software firm moves to larger hq

Optibrium, a developer of software for drug discovery, is moving to larger office premises on Cambridge Innovation Park North to accomodate its accelerated growth and recruitment efforts. The new hq provides new offices, meeting rooms, social areas and on-site leisure activities to promote employee well-being. Over 170 organisations worldwide, including leading pharma companies, use Optibrium's computational drug discovery technology in their research programs.

Initiative launched to monitor and improve mental health

A new initiative aimed at monitoring and improving mental health across the county’s 30,000-plus businesses and sharing best practice has been launched by business leaders and public health professionals in Suffolk. Suffolk Chamber has teamed up with Suffolk County Council’s public health & communities team and Suffolk Mind to deliver a year-long research, communications and information-sharing campaign and showcasing good practice by encouraging employers to sign up to the county’s Healthy Workplace Award. The initiative builds on a successful 2019 pilot.