2013: The Year in Business Part Two − July to December

Mark Carney succeeded Sir Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England. Mark Carney succeeded Sir Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England.

Thursday, January 2, 2014
8:55 AM

In the second part of our review of the region’s business year, Duncan Brodie identifies some of the key stories from the second half of 2013.

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July

New Bank of England governor Mark Carney was met with a flurry of good news on his first day in the job, with better-than-expected figures on home loans and manufacturing.

David Redhead, managing director at Claydon-based BSP International Foundations since 1996 (pictured right), stepped down from day-to-day management to take up a part-time role as non-executive chairman.

A new loans fund designed to help kick-start smaller-scale commercial developments was launched by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Waste management specialist Sackers Recycling claimed the top Business of the Year title at the 2013 East Anglian Daily Times Business Awards.

Erben, the Hadleigh-based company which makes lids for wine bottles, was placed 39th in a league table of UK firms with the fastest-growing international sales compiled by the Sunday Times.

Malt and malted ingredients manufacturer Muntons said it was on track to achieve annual sales of more than £100million after securing a new lending facility.

Adnams head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald was named as “Brewer of the Year” at the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group’s annual awards dinner.

About 355 retail jobs faced the axe at collapsed toy and model chain Modelzone after administrators announced plans to start shutting stores.

Woodbridge businesses Lexia Media, an EADT Suffolk Future50 company, and Creative Intent joined forces to create a single creative agency spanning public relations and digital strategy.

Contamination control and hygiene products company Tristel reported a return to profit during the second half of its financial year.

Ipswich-based plant hire company Fork Rent ordered 900 JCB telescopic handling machines worth more than £53million, one of the biggest single orders in JCB’s history.

A gin produced by Suffolk brewer and distiller Adnams won a top award in the 2013 International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC).

Ferry operator Stena Line reported record first-half passenger and traffic volumes for its Harwich-Hook of Holland route.

Newmarket-based wealth management and employee benefits specialist Atkinson Bolton Consulting was acquired by Mattioli Woods plc in a deal valued at up to £5.99million.

Irn Bru maker AG Barr called time on a merger with Robinsons firm Britvic after its revised takeover approach was snubbed despite long-awaited competition clearance for the tie-up.

August

Turkey giant Bernard Matthews announced plans to spend £1m on a brand relaunch in a bid to win-over mums and kids to its range of cooked meats and frozen and breaded poultry products.

East Anglia-based MP and former Farming Minister Sir James Paice landed a new role heading the First Milk co-operative, wholly owned by dairy farmers.

Lloyds TSB’s historic branch in Ipswich’s Cornhill was officially re-opened following a £1million facelift.

A village pub closed since January re-opened under new owners following a £250,000 facelift. The Swan at Westerfield, near Ipswich, became the sixth pub taken on by Deben Inns Ltd.

Facilities management company Servest, which has its UK head office at Bury St Edmunds, committed to sponsor Ipswich Town FC’s under-21s, the route to the first team for talented players coming through from the club’s academy.

Stowmarket manufacturer Timberwolf achieved its first sale in the Far East, with the help of a partnership forged through a Suffolk Chamber of Commerce export event.

Barnes Construction completed work on the second phase of retail development at Futura Park in Ipswich, involving units let to furnishings stores DFS, Paul Simon Curtains, Furniture Village and Oak Furniture Land, together with Costa Coffee and Carphone Warehouse.

A new era of worldwide travel was announced by Cambridge International Airport ahead of the launch of an inter-airline agreement involving Etihad, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates.

The Co-operative Group posted a £559million first-half loss as heavy bad debts within its banking arm wiped out profits from its supermarkets.

Frankie & Benny’s owner The Restaurant Group (TRG) cashed in on a growing appetite for breakfast as it served up a 15% earnings boost for the first half of 2013.

Royal Bank of Scotland ended uncertainty over its leadership by announcing that retail boss Ross McEwan would become its new chief executive, succeeding Stephen Hester from October 1.

John Lewis said it would pay £40m to staff after miscalculating holiday pay over the last seven years, leaving some workers entitled to thousands of pounds in compensation.

September

It was revealed that around 300 new jobs are to be created in Ipswich under a deal which will see supermarket group Morrisons take over part of DIY giant B&Q’s store on the Ransomes Europark.

DFDS Seaways, whose UK passenger routes include services between Harwich and Esbjerg, was named Europe’s Leading Ferry Operator at the World Travel Awards.

Pubs and brewing group Greene King said that July’s heatwave, British sporting success and the royal birth had all contributed to a strong summer.

East Anglia-based turkey producer Bernard Matthews secured a multi-million pound cash injection aimed at returning the company to profit.

Seckford Hall Hotel at Woodbridge celebrated the completion of the first phase of work on an extensive refurbishment.

Insurance broker Willis announced a major investment to increase capacity in Ipswich, having already created more than 200 jobs in the town over the past two years, including more than 50 for school-leavers and new graduates.

A Greek-style natural yoghurt made by Marybelle Dairy, based near Saxmundham, was named Supreme Champion in the 2013 Great Taste Awards.

AXA Wealth Services was fined £1.8m by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for failing to ensure it gave suitable investment advice to its customers.

Bury St Edmunds-based computer recycling specialist Network 2 Supplies said it would be creating more than 140 new jobs after winning two major new contracts which will transform it into a global business.

Alistair Lang, the former chief executive of regional law firm Birketts, was appointed to the new role of strategy director at Ipswich-based Gotelee Solicitors.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce launched a “No Toll Tax on Suffolk” campaign to fight plans to impose tolls as part of an upgrade of the A14, claiming the charges would be a tax on the county’s economy.

A commercial kitchen cleaning operation swept up a prestigious national contract with a popular restaurant chain. Great Blakenham-based Ingot impressed Nando’s senior management with its professional approach and the high quality of its work.

Investors in Vodafone were promised a £54bn cash and shares windfall after the telecoms giant sold its share in America’s Verizon Wireless for £84bn.

Chancellor George Osborne hailed a £61m profit on the sale of shares in Lloyds Banking Group as more evidence that the economy was “turning a corner”.

Soft drinks brands Lucozade and Ribena were swallowed by Orangina and Schweppes owner Suntory in a £1.35bn deal with GlaxoSmithKline.

TSB became Britain’s eighth biggest high street bank after it was re-launched as a standalone brand, 18 years after disappearing when it merged with Lloyds.

October

Sugar brand Silver Spoon, part of Associated British Foods, warned that around 30 jobs were under threat at its packaging plant in Bury St Edmunds following the loss of a major supermarket contract amid intense competition.

Ferry operator Stena Line North Sea said that strong demand for premium cabins had helped drive a boost for passenger figures over the summer.

Employee-owned co-operative Leading Lives, which provides support services around Suffolk for adults with learning disabilities, elected its first board of employee directors.

Ipswich-based call handling company ansaback announced plans to create around 50 new jobs after winning a major new contract.

The Co-operative Bank looked set to fall under the control of US hedge funds and other big institutions after they rejected the embattled lender’s £1.5bn rescue plan and put forward a debt-for-equity swap of their own.

Cinema group Cineworld confirmed that it planned to sell the Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St Edmunds following a ruling by the Competition Commission.

Regional train operator Greater Anglia picked up the Achievement in Customer Satisfaction title at the British Quality Foundation’s UK Excellence Awards.

Flavours and fragrances firm Omega Ingredients, based at Great Blakenham, said it had created five new jobs and launched its products in the lucrative Unite States market with the help of a grant from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Colchester-based ventilation specialist Fläkt Woods hosted a delegation from the world-renowned 20 Keys International Conference.

A haulage company with depots across East Anglia and the South East was sold out of administration, saving 180 jobs. C&H (Hauliers) Ltd, part of the Charles Gee Group, was acquired by Gloucestershire-based logistics firm CM Downton Ltd.

DVD rental chain Blockbuster Entertainment announced that it was to fall into administration for the second time this year after suffering amid poor trading.

Budget supermarket chain Aldi celebrated the launch of its 500th store as it opened a new branch in Bury St Edmunds.

US politicians struck a last-minute deal to avert a catastrophic debt default that threatened to derail the global economic recovery.

Royal Mail shares surged to new heights on its first full day of stock market trading, leaving the price around 50% higher than its original sell-off level.

British boot maker Dr Martens was snapped up by private equity firm Permira in a £300m deal ending more than 50 years of family ownership for the iconic brand.

November

Royal Bank of Scotland is to create an internal “bad bank” of £38bn of problem assets but avoid a full split, the bank and the Treasury announced.

Silver Spoon sugar, Twinings tea and Kingsmill bread owner Associated British Foods reported 13% increase in pre-tax profits, driven by a “remarkable” year for its Primark budget clothing retail chain.

Chinese technology giant Huawei has revealed plans to plough at least £370m into developing a new superfast mobile network allowing one-second film downloads.

Transport operator FirstGroup reported a fall in half-year profits from its bus division, despite the business achieving its first increase in passenger numbers for five year.

The boss of turkey giant Bernard Matthews inisted that the company’s turnaround plans were starting to pay off, despite annual results showing a pre-tax loss of £20.4m.

Administrators announced the closure of more than 70 braches of DVD rental chain Blockbuster, with a likelihood of more to follow.

The Unite trade union pledged to “do everying we can” to minimise job losses at Marshall Aerospace & Defence Group after the Cambridge-based company announced that its site at Mildenhall, where it has been servicing lorries on behalf of the Army since 2005, will close early next year with the loss of 39 jobs.

The Harbour Inn at Southwold won the overall Pub of the Year title at the annual Adnams Pub Awards.

Low-cost airline easyJet posted a 51% increase in annual profits after efforts to attract more business travellers saw it fly more than 60million passengers in a year for the first time.

Suffolk’s business community was urged to get behind energy group EDF’s plans for the Sizewell C nuclear power station. Tom McGarry, senior communications manager at EDF, said the proposed development represented a huge opportunity for the county and welcomed the support of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

Business leaders in Suffolk highlighted the need for Stansted Airport to offer long-distance flights to destinations such as the United States and the Far East.

Soft drinks group Britvic reported strong growth in annual sales and profits as it confirmed that its factory in Chelmsford will close by May next year under a cost-cutting drive.

Colchester was named among the first towns in the country to see the roll-out of a new trial format for Argos stores which involves tablet computers replacing the retailer’s familiar laminated catalogues.

State-backed Royal Bank of Scotland hired a law firm to investigate claims of “unscrupulous” treatment of small businesses.

December

Martlesham-based Arena Travel won a contract to operate the Royal British Legion’s “Journeys of Remembrance” tours to the battlefields of Europe, Africa and Asia via the RBL’s own travel company, Remembrance Travel.

Suffolk business leaders welcomed news that the Government had scrapped plans to toll the planned upgrade of the A14 near Huntingdon.

Pubs and brewing group Greene King reported a “pleasing” 5.7% increase in first half profits as it continued to overcome the pressure on household budgets.

Stansted Airport called on businesses from across the East of England to work together to help attract direct long-haul services.

Supermarket giant Tesco failed to boost confidence in its recovery plans as it revealed underlying sales declines across all its market

Royal Bank of Scotland boss Ross McEwan admitted that it had failed to invest properly in systems for decades as he apologised for another embarrassing IT failure on the busiest online shopping day of the year.

The Bank of England said it would issue its first plastic bank notes with the launch of a new £5 note featuring Sir Winston Churchill in 2016, to be followed by a polymer-based £10 note featuring Jane Austen a year later.

Blockbuster’s last remaining stores shut down after administrators failed to find a buyer for the rental and DVD chain. Blockbuster had 264 stores and a 2,000-strong workforce when it collapsed.

Lloyds Banking Group was fined a record £28m over incentive schemes that rewarded staff with “champagne bonuses” and put advisers under pressure to hit sales targets or face demotion.

The boss of More Than insurer RSA resigned after the company said it would need to set aside more money for its troubled Irish division. Simon Lee, whose job was on the line after two recent profits warnings, stood down immediately.

World-leading insurance market Lloyd’s of London named its first female boss in 325 years of historywith Inga Beale appointed chief executive to replace Richard Ward from January 2014.

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