Tuesday 09th August 2022
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 25/07/2022

Interest rates expected to double but investment still a priority for finance heads

A recession is widely expected within the next year as interest rates are expected to double to tackle continuing high inflation although investment prospects remain positive, according to Deloitte’s second quarter survey of chief finance officers (CFOs). The survey shows finance heads put a 63 per cent probability on a recession in the next 12 months with a growing majority expecting inflation to still exceed 2.5 per cent in two-years’ time. Interest rates are expected to reach 2.5 per cent by next June. Almost a quarter of CFOs report credit as ‘fairly or very costly’, the highest reading in ten years and most expect operating margins will be squeezed over the next 12 months. Today, most finance heads are focused on reducing costs and increasing cash flow, but new products and services or expansion into new markets remain a priority. Capital spending remains a strong priority for nearly a fifth of CFOs and they are optimistic about medium-term prospects for investment. Most expect productivity and spending on skills and digital tech to speed up in the next three years. Paul Schofield (photo, right) Deloitte Cambridge senior partner, said: “It’s interesting that CFOs remain optimistic on investment - despite rising inflation and recessionary risks. They remain convinced that growth and resilience will only come through increased spending on digital technology – and the skills to use it. Investments into technology businesses in Cambridge and the surrounding region in the last two months alone show that this is the case locally.”

Suffolk businesses welcome planning consent for Sizewell C

Businesses in the region have welcomed the government’s decision to grant development consent to Sizewell C nuclear power station in east Suffolk although financing arrangements for the £20 billion project have yet to be be finalised. Ashley Shorey-Mills, head of Suffolk Chamber’s Sizewell C Supply Chain portal, said: “The positive decision to award the development consent order for Sizewell C is good news for Suffolk, for many of our businesses and for the skills and employability prospects for the county’s and the region’s workers, especially during the construction phase of the new nuclear power station.” Over 2000 firms have registered with the Sizewell C Supply Chain portal hoping to take advantage of commitments which should be worth £4.4bn to the local and regional suppliers.

East of England Energy Group executive chair, Martin Dronfield, said: “We have seen delays and protracted consultations on this project so we are delighted that the correct decision has been made and industry finally has clarity on the way forward for this major infrastructure project.”

Senior deputy general secretary of Prospect union Sue Ferns said: “This DCO is welcome but long overdue. We now need the government to bring forward its investment decision as a matter of urgency so the project can progress.”

More Cambridge office buildings converted to labs to meet shortage of space

A growing number of office buildings around Cambridge are being converted to laboratory space as tech and life sciences companies struggle to find suitable space around the city. Recent examples include Vision Park in Histon where 45,000 sq ft of lab deals have completed for three companies including Talga Technologies and Source Bioscience UK, relocating from Cambridge Science Park. Meanwhile, the completed 160,000 sq ft of mid-tech accommodation at Bourn Quarter is 80 per cent let as new R&D occupiers look to secure space. A further 110,000 sq ft now has outline consent as part of Phase II at the site. William Clarke at Savills Cambridge said: “With new and Grade A office supply critically low and fitted laboratory space not currently available, occupiers have no option but to consider alternative options in the short-term to satisfy critical requirements in order to continue to expand.” According to Savills, strong occupier demand has meant take-up of office and laboratory space has remained resilient at 192,000 sq ft in the first half but a lack of supply with no availability of existing fitted laboratory space until at least 2023/2024 is hampering businesses. Four speculative lab schemes are under construction around the city but only one, next to Cambridge North railway station will be ready this year.

Photo: An application has also been lodged at Chesterford Research Park (right) for a further 57,000 sq ft of new laboratory space but it is unlikely to be delivered until 2024 and beyond.

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Greenfield land prices surge but 'pressures on the horizon'

Greenfield land prices in the East of England rose by 12.4 per cent in the year to June, faster than in any other UK region but there are "mounting pressures on the horizon" in the new homes sector. According to Savills, agents say said that the land market remains cautiously positive with competition for sites, limited supply, high house prices and the current demand for homes all supporting growth in regional land values. But pressures include build costs, the end of Help to Buy support for first time buyers, rising inflation and the prospects of slower house price growth. Greenfield sites in the East of England rose 2.2 per cent in the second quarter. Urban land values in the region rose by 7.0 per cent over the last 12 months. Andy Redman, who leads the development team at Savills in Suffolk and Essex, said the land market in the East of England remains robust, particularly for the best sites close to existing infrastructure and good transport routes such as the A12 and A14. “We have seen interest from a range of potential buyers,” he continued. “Major housebuilders are still proving to be very active and are seeking both immediate and strategic land to build up pipelines and provide security of land supply, but housing associations are also becoming increasingly competitive as they look to fulfil their delivery targets over the next five years."

Planning application submitted for A14 logistics unit

A reserved matters planning application for a 1.2 million sq ft logistics unit for retail company The Range near the A14 in Stowmarket has been submitted by Gateway 14 Ltd, advised by development partner Jaynic. It will create an estimated 1,650 jobs in the region. Gateway 14, which is part of the new Freeport East low tax and regulation zone, already has outline planning consent for a 2.36m sq ft mixed-use innovation, business and warehousing scheme. Construction of the site infrastructure is underway and the development of The Range unit is planned to start next January. Ben Oughton, development director of Jaynic, said: “We are committed to delivering a high specification building for The Range with sustainability a central feature of the project with a target delivery date of autumn 2023.”

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Late payments on the rise in the region

East Anglian firms had over 760,000 overdue invoices on their books in June, a rise of over 4 per cent since March according to data from R3. There has also been a marked increase in insolvency-related activities in the region, which rose by almost 5 per cent between May and June. R3 Eastern chair Alistair Bacon said: “Late payment is a key contributory factor in business insolvency, despite huge effort being made by professional bodies such as R3, policy makers and opinion formers to improve business practice around paying suppliers on time. With the UK inflation rate spiralling upwards, along with the cost of raw materials, manufacturing and distribution, there is enormous pressure on business cashflow, which bears the added strain of rising fuel and utility costs and decreasing consumer confidence."

Pizza franchise to open in Ipswich as part of plan for ten outlets in the region

The first of ten Caprinos Pizza franchises which are planned across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex over the next couple of years is to open in Ipswich. It follows the letting of the long-established Gandhi Indian restaurant on the town's St Peter’s Street by Penn Commercial to Caprinos Pizza on a 10-year lease. The current business owner, Mohammed Miah, is planning to retire. Caprinos Pizza is a young UK pizza delivery/takeaway chain offering Italian American cuisine and a menu for adults and children. It is one of the few pizza brands offering Halal menu across all its branches and has won several awards. The Ipswich restaurant will be offering mainly takeaway and delivery but will also have tables for eating in. Rachael Jackson, marketing and commercial consultant at Penn Commercial, said: “We have been working with Mohammed and the team at The Gandhi to secure a long-standing tenant, and we are delighted that a prestigious national chain such as Caprinos, with a growing presence around the UK, have been successful in their plans to start a new pizza restaurant in Ipswich"

Photo: Mohammed Miah (3rd from left) and sons with Caprinos Pizzas directors Danny Rawlings (2nd from right) and Michael Anthony (far right), along with new general manager, Mandy.

See Profile Penn Commercial

Accountancy firm named in UK top 20 ranking of apprenticeship employers

Chartered accountants Lovewell Blake has been named as the only East Anglian-based employer to feature in the top 20 of the government’s ‘Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers’ List for 2022. Some 27 per cent of its current employees started at the firm as part of the Apprenticeships programme after signing up for the scheme just six years ago and 40 new apprenticeships have been created at the firm in the past 12 months. Lovewell Blake is ranked 20th nationally in the list, which is compiled by the Department of Education and is dominated by large employers such as the Armed Forces, government departments and major businesses such as BT. “When we decided to embrace the Apprenticeships programme six years ago, it was a significant move for a profession which has traditionally been very graduate-based,” said Lovewell Blake senior partner Mark Proctor. “It is very satisfying to be recognised for the way we have developed our apprenticeship programme since then, and it is now a very important part of how we introduce and nurture talent at the firm.”

Photo (from left): Lovewell Blake apprentices Katie Orbell and Laura Woodgate; senior partner Mark Proctor; training and HR co-ordinator Kirsty LeGrice; and apprentice Kalib Muller

Key promotions announced at firm of solicitors

Essex-based firm of solicitors, Thompson Smith and Puxon, has made a number of key promotions as it looks to strengthen its service and expertise across a number of teams. Fiona Gibson, who joined the firm’s Colchester-based commercial property team in June 2021 and who undertakes all types of commercial property work, has been promoted to associate solicitor. Adina Milleare, who joined the Clacton-based wills and estates team in July 2013, is now an associate solicitor. She advises clients on wills, powers of attorney, Court of Protection work and inheritance tax as well as dealing with the administration of estates. Stacey Anderson, who joined Thompson Smith and Puxon in 2006, becoming part the Colchester-based clinical negligence team in 2013, is now an associate chartered legal executive. She advises clients on all aspects of their clinical negligence claims. Mary Anne Fedeyko, senior partner at Thompson Smith and Puxon, said : “I am delighted many of our team have been recognised for their commitment and hard work. Their promotions recognise the skills and expertise that each individual brings to their role and their team.”

Photo (l-r): Stacey Anderson, Fiona Gibson, Adina Milleare and Mary Anne Fedeyko.

See Profile Thompson Smith and Puxon

Law firm donates pro-bono time to help Norfolk charity secure expansion

Law firm Birketts, has given free legal support to help local charity Time Norfolk secure its expansion to a new, larger hub in Norwich. The move will enable the charity to continue to expand its support to women and men who have suffered a pregnancy loss, termination or infertility. The pro-bono work involves reviewing and negotiating the terms of the new lease, as well as ensuring the lease is ‘tenant friendly’. Time Norfolk is one of four charities that the full-service legal firm is supporting this year as part of its commitment to corporate social responsibility. Rebecca Bond (right), associate at Birketts, said: “We are thrilled that our Norwich office is supporting this incredible local charity, which does vital work for those who are experiencing pregnancy loss, termination or infertility."

Tim Gosden, director at Time Norfolk, said: "Birketts have been an incredible support in completing the lease on our new Norwich Hub."

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Three lawyers at firm ranked band one in legal guide

Three partners from Ashtons Legal have been ranked band 1 in their disciplines in the Chamber and Partners High Net Worth Guide 2022. Jennie Pratt remains at band 1 for private wealth law for the Cambridge and surrounds area. Meanwhile, Alan Brown moves up to band 1 for his work providing private wealth law in the Ipswich and surrounds area and Polly Stephenson is now ranked band 1 for private wealth disputes in the whole of East Anglia. Jennie Pratt and Alan Brown are part of one of the largest private client teams in the region and have many years experience advising clients on estate planning and inheritance and related taxes. Both are longstanding members of STEP (Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners). Polly Stephenson works in a more niche area, advising executors/trustees, beneficiaries and disappointed beneficiaries as both claimants and defendants in trust disputes and contentious probate and inheritance claims relating to estates ranging from modest-sized to in excess of £8 million. She is a member of ACTAPS (Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Solicitors) and leads a rapidly growing team of contentious probate lawyers. James Tarling, Ashtons’ CEO said: “Chambers and Partners is a well-respected legal guide and I am therefore delighted that they have recognised the fantastic work that Jennie, Alan, Polly and their teams do in providing an exceptional service to our clients. "

Photo: Polly Stephenson, partner.

See Profile Ashtons Legal

Funding pledged for new £3.5 million indoor crop facility at University of Essex

The Wolfson Foundation has pledged £1 million to support the development of a £3.5 million smart technology experimental plant suite at Essex’s Colchester Campus for a new state-of-the-art indoor crop growth facility. With an established whole plant physiology and photosynthesis groups, Essex has long been at the forefront of plant productivity research. The new facility will be able to grow plants in a suite of fully automated and adjustable environments. Plant physiologist Professor Tracy Lawson, from Essex’s school of life sciences, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this funding from the Wolfson Foundation. This unique facility will build on our world-leading strengths in plant productivity research and allow us to exploit the latest technologies to improve key plant processes."