Saturday 20th January 2018
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 04/01/2018

SMEs plan to keep up investment and employment despite inflation and cybersecurity concerns

Rising inflation and cybersecurity are the biggest fears facing SMEs for 2018 although most firms plan to maintain investment and employment and many have high hopes that consumer demand and better technology will help them grow, says research from Barclays Business Banking. Overall, SMEs are split on the outlook for  2018, with 46 per cent seeing it as a year of opportunities, and 49 per cent one of challenges, according to Barclays’ annual SME Hopes and Fears Index. But most SMEs plan to maintain the same level of investment (65 per cent) and employee numbers (68 per cent) as for 2017. Those making changes are generally positive, with 21 per cent planning to increase employee numbers and 20 per cent planning to increase investment. Inflation emerges as the biggest danger (cited by 43 per cent) with other concerns including the risk of cyberattacks, the state of the UK economy, fraudsters, and Brexit and UK politics. Matthew Peek, head of SME, Anglia, at Barclays Business Banking, said: “The research reflects small businesses being empowered by new technology and e-commerce. Compared with a year ago, more think these developments will have a positive impact on their business... Inflation is clearly a worry, and in particular the potential for prices to rise faster than wages. Business owners are taking a prudent and cautious approach to the year ahead. However, there are positive signs of SMEs investing and hiring more staff.”...Read more

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Surge in tech firms taking space in Cambridge city centre

The take-up of office space by tech firms in Cambridge city centre has soared, according to Savills. Tech firms accounted for 42 per cent of overall leasing activity in the Cambridge office market in the second half, typically involving deals on space under 10,000 sq ft deals. Deals have been dominated by small start-up firms moving into second and third phase growth stages, although the the first half of last year also saw corporates such as Amazon, Heptares and Astex Pharmaceuticals commit to more than 130,000 sq ft of office and lab space across the city.  The agent says a lack of stock and strong demand is likely to drive up rents in in the city centre, edging  closer to £40.00 per sq ft.

Separately, Bidwells has completed a deal on a ten-year lease on Cambridge Research Park with Clinical Reference Laboratory – Europe for Suite 7310 in Building 7300, totalling 5,587 sq ft. Only two units providing Grade A accommodation remain in Building 7300.

Law firm advises on acquisition by Dutch group

Law firm Birketts has advised the shareholders of a Dutch company, AWL Group, on its purchase of ICS Robotics and Automation, which is based in the UK. ICS has been in the robotic welding and automation business since 1989 and its customers include include automotive, agricultural, medical and general manufacturers. It will continue to operate under its own name and with current management team as an independent entity in the group. Birketts advised on all legal matters and the team was led by Andrew Wood (photo, head of Birketts’ Anglo Dutch desk) and Ed Savory (corporate). Assistance was provided by Ben Clarke (corporate), Vicki Mitman (corporate), Paul Palik (commercial), Karl Pocock (tax), Sam Greenhalgh (employment) and Laura Jones (property). Pieter-Matthijs Fegel, CFO AWL, said: “Being advised by a law firm that has a dedicated Anglo Dutch desk was very advantageous. The team's knowledge and service was impressive and the insight and advice provided ensured that everything went according to plan.”

See Profile Birketts

Peterborough office market set for revival

Savills is expecting an upturn in occupier activity in 2018 in the Peterborough office market after the availability of premium stock rose by up to 100 per cent in the second half of 2017. The agent predicts that PDR is likely to slow in 2018 due to a potential oversupply of residential units and with little speculative development, there has been an increase in supply of refurbished office stock. Some 60,000 sq ft of Grade A space at Lynch Wood Park came to the market recently. Savills says it is positive news for the city, which can now cater for significantly larger requirements, including the Government Property Unit (GPU) that has been searching for suitable space in the region since 2015. Rents are expected to rise and some landlords have been asking significantly above recent quoting rents of £13-15 per sq ft. Edward Gee, associate director in the business space team at Savills Peterborough, said :“With strong rail links between Peterborough and London and its status as a Gigabit City, providing top fibre optic connectivity, Peterborough remains an attractive commercial location within the region, which will prove fundamental to the market’s inevitable revival.”

Ports group acquires stake

Hutchison Ports, owner of the Port of Felixstowe, has acquired a 50% shareholding in TMA Logistics B.V. which has general cargo terminal operations together with warehousing, shipping, logistics and project cargo activities at three sites in Amsterdam and one in Antwerp. It also operates at Hutchison Ports’ Amsterdam Container Terminal. Clemence Cheng, executive director, Hutchison Ports, said: “The acquisition of a 50% stake in TMA Logistics complements both our existing operations in Amsterdam and the activities of Hutchison Logistics. We have developed a good working relationship with TMA over the last three years which has brought a range of operations to ACT.”

Lightering firm sets up in Brazil

SafeSTS, an international lightering company owned by Diss-based Future Marine Services, is setting up a Brazilian company, SafeSTS Ltda, to meet growing demand for ship-to-ship transfers to support the country's soaring oil exports. Managing director Yvonne Mason said: "Our clients have responded very positively to our plans for a Brazilian operation, with our knowledge and expertise being expected to play an important role in undertaking the increasing number of STS operations scheduled for 2018 and beyond." After a 30 per cent growth in its 2016/17 financial performance, SafeSTS believes that South America will make an important contribution to its 2017/18 results.

Advice for Suffolk firms seeking to export to Latin America

Suffolk companies looking to break into the growing Latin American market can hear from Gaby Castro-Fontoura(photo,right), director of Uruguay-based export consultancy Sunny Sky Solutions, who will be guest speaker at Suffolk Chamber International’s Doing Business in Latin America event on 26 January, at the Ipswich Hotel. With a total population of 637m, Latin America’s gdp stood at US$ 5 trillion in 2016 and is expected to grow to over US$ 7 trillion by 2022. Amanda Ankin, operations director of Suffolk Chamber, said: “Latin America is clearly a key target area for Suffolk businesses looking to expand into in any post-Brexit and free trade environment.”

Events to shape economic strategy

New Anglia LEP is holding a series of events for businesses to help shape the delivery plans for the new economic strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk. The strategy identifies the key themes and opportunities for the region’s businesses and outlines ambitious plans for future growth. The free events are on ; Thursday 25 January, 3-5pm - King’s Lynn; Monday 29 January, 3-5pm- Norwich; Tuesday 30 January, 3-5pm-Bury St Edmunds; Tuesday 6 February, 3-5pm- Ipswich; Wednesday 14 February, 3-5pm– Eye; Monday 19 February,3-5pm-Great Yarmouth.

New sponsors for enterprise agency

The Colchester Business Enterprise Agency (Colbea) has announced two new local sponsors for 2018, Voice Workshop; a specialist training provider for singing teachers and vocal coaches and Heptagon HR, founded by Jo Clifton, who also runs Colchester’s Business Biscotti event. They join Fenwick, Nicholl’s Law and KAT Marketing as local businesses supporting Colbea in 2018. Colbea CEO, Ashleigh Seymour-Rutherford said: “As local businesses, both of these sponsorships really help to reinforce Colbea’s dedication to SMEs based in Colchester and surrounding areas.”