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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…CARRS REPORTS SEVENTH INCREASE Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
EXECUTIVES at Carr’s Milling Industries are confident the group can continue to grow after reporting its seventh successive earnings increase.

Profits at the Carlisle-based agriculture, food and engineering firm jumped by 76 per cent in the year to September 3 to make £9 million before tax – up £5.1 million on the previous year.

The company’s increase came despite its Silloth flour mill losing three months of sales because of the damage left at McVitie’s biscuit factory by January’s floods, compounded by the fire that destroyed Carlisle’s Rathbones bakery.

Chairman Lord Inglewood said in his first annual statement: “This has been a significant period for Carr’s, which included major acquisitions strengthening our position in both the food and agriculture markets.

“It is a testament to the underlying strength of our business that it continued to perform well during this busy period.

“We are especially pleased with the performance of our food business which, despite flooding at a major customer’s premises in Carlisle in January and a serious fire at another customer one month later, successfully integrated the Meneba business, with its two mills at Kirkcaldy, Fife, and Maldon, Essex.”

The operating profit from the enlarged food division was £2.2 million.

Overall, group sales rose by 23 per cent to £192 million.

Much of the increase in profits was due to a £4.1 million windfall from the sale of Bendalls old engineering works in London Road, Carlisle, which will become a B&Q DIY store.

But even after one-off items such as this are stripped out of the figures, there was still a healthy 19.8 per cent increase in underlying pre-tax profits.

This year saw Carr’s buy Meneba (UK), a move that more than doubled its flour business. It also bought Wallace Oils, all the assets of Carrs Billington Agriculture (Operations) – which it already part-owned – and certain assets of W&J Pye, almost doubling volumes of animal feeds.

Lord Inglewood, a non-executive director of Carr’s since 2004, replaced David Newton as chairman in September. He had held the post since 1996 and resigned because of ill health.

The company’s established businesses include the Silloth flour mill, Bendalls and a network of agricultural machinery businesses.

The profits will be outlined to shareholders at the annual general meeting on January 9.

THE Carrs 2015 Breadmaker of the Year award has gone to a Birmingham woman who invented a loaf that cures morning sickness.

Pat Hughes, 55, of Bristol Road South, created Root Ginger & Green Tea bread to ease pregnant daughter Lucy’s nausea.

Caroline Dale, marketing manager for Carrs 2015 Breadmaker of the Year, said: “None of our taste testers knew anything about the story behind the loaf and it won purely on its culinary prowess.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 Please click here, not forgetting to include your full contact details should we need to speak to you. THE FULL STORY…YOU CAN ONLY SELL YOUR BUSINESS ONCE – GETTING IT RIGHT IS CRUCIALPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Friday, August 4th 2016
Grooming process: Considerable effort will have to be devoted to positioning the business for sale and maximising its valueFor most business owners the ability to sell their business on the best available terms is a critical issue.

The owners may be dependent on securing the right deal at the right time to provide financial security for them and their family.

Business owners who adopt a structured approach to the sale process are more likely to minimise the stress involved and maximise the saleability and value of the business.

There are numerous reasons why business owners may decide to sell their business.

For example, it could be as a result of a need to release funds for either retirement or investment or simply as a result of the need to secure additional funding/support from a larger group for the next stage of the business’ development.

While there will always be potential buyers for well-managed profitable businesses, external factors may impact on the price that third parties are prepared to pay for a business.

Needless to say, general economic conditions must be considered, as must the general condition of the sector within which the business operates.

Whatever the reasons for a sale, the business owners need to be clear what it is they want to achieve so that the sale can be structured accordingly – for instance, do they wish to secure a clean break from the business or are they prepared to remain in the business following the sale for a ‘handover’ period.

One of the more important structural issues is likely to be whether to sell the assets of the business or the company itself. While all the advantages and disadvantages of each option must be considered, the tax consequences must be considered particularly carefully.

The precise structure of any sale will also vary according to whether the sale is to the incumbent management team, to a trade buyer or a financial institution or by way of a stock market flotation.

Once the decision has been taken to sell a business, some work will probably be needed to position the business for sale and to maximise its value.

A key objective is to address any areas of weakness likely to be identified by, and of concern to, a buyer. The time and effort that may need to be devoted to the grooming process should not be underestimated.

Key issues to consider and address are likely to include:

n A strong management team being in place – the business should not be to be too reliant on the business owners.

Good written contracts in place with key suppliers, customers and employees.

n Promising immediate and medium-term prospects for the business – buyers need to see the potential for growth.

Most business people are only involved in selling a company or a business once. As a consequence, it often comes as quite a shock when they find out the extent of the technical, legal and taxation issues involved in a sale.

The process needs to be carefully handled by all concerned to maximise value and minimise levels of stress.

The process will involve:

n Preparing an information memorandum. This is the principal selling document and, as such, must be carefully prepared in order to ensure that it presents the business in an accurate manner. Commercially sensitive information should be withheld.

n Identifying potential buyers.

Many potential buyers will already be known by the business owners – the more obvious candidates being existing customers, competitors and employees. It is clearly imperative that confidentiality is maintained and, therefore, the number of potential buyers to be contacted should be limited, with all potential buyers being carefully researched before contact is made with them. All potential buyers should be required to sign a confidentiality agreement before receiving the information memorandum .

n Indicative offers. Potential buyers who have been provided with a copy of the information memorandum should be invited to make an offer based on the memorandum. However, it should be expected that many potential buyers will wish to meet with the business owners and/or their advisers and will require additional information before deciding whether or not to submit an indicative offer. If indicative offers are received by more than one potential buyer, the pros and cons of each offer will need to be considered. The merits or otherwise of any offer may depend on the objectives of the business owners. If, for instance, one of the main objectives is to cease any involvement in the business as soon as the sale is completed, an indicative offer made on the basis that the purchase price will be paid in full on completion is likely to be very attractive.

n Heads of agreement. Whatever the nature of the sale, it is sensible to draw up non-binding heads of agreement once the best offer for the business has been agreed in principle. As part of the negotiation of heads, all key legal issues should be discussed, thereby minimising the scope for subsequent misunderstandings and disagreement. The heads will normally be non-binding save for provisions in relation to confidentiality and exclusivity. Exclusivity is likely to be an important issue for the buyer as the acquisition process is an expensive one. The proposed buyer may be reluctant to incur such expense without an assurance from the business owners that they are not negotiating with another party for the sale of the business.

n Due diligence. Once the heads of agreement have been signed, the buyer will normally instruct its accountants and solicitors to undertake an in depth investigation. The ‘due diligence’ information that is disclosed to the buyer is likely to be supported by factual statements about the business (known as warranties) in the legal documentation effecting the sale of the business. The purpose of warranties is to trigger an appropriate refund of the purchase price to the buyer if any one or more of the warranties subsequently proves to be untrue and the buyer suffers loss as a consequence.

n Legal documents. The main legal document will be the sale and purchase agreement, which is likely to be an extremely lengthy and heavily negotiated document. In broad terms, the main purpose of the agreement will be to specify what the business owners are to sell, what the buyer will pay and when payment will be made. Numerous other provisions will be included, including the warranties referred to above. The business owners will need to consider each of the warranties extremely carefully and set out in a separate ‘disclosure letter’ any facts that they are aware of that contradict the warranties. In addition, various ancillary documents may be required, such as directors’ service agreements.

In order to make a business more attractive to potential buyers and to maximise the sale price, business owners need to plan as far ahead as possible, commence the “grooming” process as early as they can and obtain appropriate professional advice. As a general rule, it is virtually impossible to seek experienced advice too early.

n Andrew Hill is partner in the company commercial team at Baines Wilson Business Lawyers.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…CHAMBER’S PLEA FOR GREATER FLEXIBILITY Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Sussex Chamber of Commerce and Industry has asked the North West Development Agency (NWDA) to ensure that business support and planning regulations within London are more flexible and innovative.

The chamber, responding to a call for comments on the draft Regional Economic Strategy (RES) which is being developed by the NWDA, has also expressed its concern about the document’s lack of detail on how growth can be encouraged within London’s changing rural economy.

Chamber president Graham Lamont said: “The planning framework within the region is in need of urgent and radical reform. Currently, it is inflexible, bureaucratic and detrimental to the Londonn economy. We are pleased that the regional business support services are being reviewed and look forward to being involved in that process.”

Other chamber comments on the draft RES included:

All businesses with growth potential should be eligible for business support;

The contribution of a business to the rural economy should not be in growth or turnover – as they are a vital support to their surrounding villages and towns;

Developing sectors within the RES should include tourism, creative industries and nuclear decommissioning; and

Businesses should have greater input into the design and development of training courses.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…HELEN’S NEW HOME IS PICTURE PERFECTPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Fresh start: Helen Whitaker  in her new home, which she calls The Picture HouseFresh start: Helen Whitaker in her new home, which she calls The Picture HouseLife begins at 40 for mother-of-three Helen Whitaker who has marked her milestone birthday by completing the building of her family home in Scotby and launching a photography business.

The five-bedroom house is fitted with all mod cons from underfloor heating to intelligent electrics which link up lighting to movement in rooms.

Grasmere-born Helen spent two-and-a-half years designing and managing the building of her timber-framed home, working with builders, electricians and plumbers.

She left behind a Victorian property next door to live in two lots of rented accommodation while her dream home was built on a plot of land in the garden.

It took a year alone to win full planning permission. She previously had planning consent to build a bungalow but then had to get consent for a house including a photographic studio.

Helen said: “It was too good an opportunity to miss and a new house is easier to look after than an old house. It signals a new, fresh start too.

“My friends will tell you the electrics were a nightmare for me because they were so complicated, but when it all comes together it’s lovely.”

The walls of her house are adorned with large photos of her three young children captured in the style that she hopes will provide her with the foundations of a successful business.

The Picture House is Helen’s return to work after giving up a career in sales when she had her first child. It allows her to work from home and be with her children Jonathan, 12, Sam, 10, and Bethan, six.

She said: “My time has been so taken up by the house, it really was all-consuming. I’d gone to all the trade shows and building exhibitions to learn all I could.”

Now Helen is looking to focus her efforts on her new business.

She has completed training courses at London Institute of the Arts and assisted photographers in the Lake District and London.

She said: “I’ve had the birthday, business and house all in the same year. Now it’s time to concentrate on the business.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…RISKS AND REWARDS OF INVESTING IN PHARMACEUTICALSPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
Pharmaceuticals companies have endured a torrid time in recent years. Concerns over patent expiries, the regulatory outlook and a weakening US dollar have conspired against drug manufacturers.

Last year’s decision by the US Food and Drug Administration to withdraw Merck’s anti-arthritis drug was a blow to the industry. The major UK pharmaceuticals stocks did not escape unscathed as investors fretted over prospects for an industry suffering from high competition and firm regulation.

Share prices across the industry have done little to excite investors since the heady days of the late 90s, but a shift in sentiment and a rebound in the dollar may provide the catalyst for change. In 2015 alone, the share price of Glaxo-SmithKline (GSK) has risen 21%. The upturn is not confined to GSK, as other drug and biotechnology stocks have broken out of their recent trading ranges.

Analysts are again showing signs of interest and earnings expectations are being revised upwards. GSK’s new approach to research is partly responsible for the group’s change in fortunes. To maintain success, GSK must continually replenish its drugs pipeline and the sums being spent on research and development are vast. Scientists at GSK have been split into entrepreneurial teams, each given their own budget, and the strategy is now bearing fruit.

With money pouring into research facilities across the industry, it is perhaps surprising that cures for cancer, in its various forms, have yet to emerge. GSK is not alone in the search, but analysts believe that Cervarix, GSK’s cervical cancer vaccine, could deliver annual sales of £2-4bn by 2010. The vaccine has yet to be granted regulatory approval but this is expected next year.

The size of the drugs development pipeline is mirrored by the array of products currently in the market. Advair, the group’s largest selling product, is used in the treatment of asthma and has annual sales of £2.46bn. Avandia, another of GSK’s blockbusters, used in the treatment of diabetes, generated sales of £1.1bn in 2004, an increase of 32%. In the US alone, 18m people suffer from diabetes, providing further scope for GSK to increase market share.

However, the pharmaceuticals industry is continually evolving and the threat of generic competition will not go away. The recent recommendation by the US Food and Drug Agency that GlaxoSmithKline’s Advair should not be used as the primary drug, sent GlaxoSmithKline’s share price 3.9 per cent lower on the day. The announcement served as a timely reminder of the regulatory problems facing large pharmaceuticals companies and the risks therefore associated with investing in the sector.

The share price of companies such as GlaxoSmithKline are often based on the perceived potential of drugs which are still at the research and development stage. The share price will remain at risk to one off announcements and will benefit from positive news flow regarding future potential blockbusting drugs.

Londonn speciality paper group James Cropper announced its interim results recently, stating that they had experienced a challenging start to the current financial year.

The increase in energy costs experienced last year has continued into this year and demand from Europe has been poor. However, the group is looking to recover some of the higher charges by passing on some of the increases in costs to its customers, while the firm also noted that the past quarter has seen some improvement in its UK and European markets.

The group’s retail division, The Paper Mill Shop, like many shops in the High Street, has felt the effect of the slow down in consumer spending, although overall, due to new stores opening in Mansfield and Hatfield, sales rose 30 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Greggs, the High Street bakers, produced a credible three per cent increase in second half sales compared to the same period last year. I say credible, due to the lower number of shoppers on the High Street over the period.

The shares traded lower on the figures as many analysts had expected sales growth to be up around four per cent year on year.

Looking to the long term, we expect sales growth to resume when consumers return to the High Street and bearing in mind the group’s plan to have 1,770 stores in the UK by 2010, which we believe is achievable, we see the group as well positioned to continue long term sales and profit growth.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…THREAT TO LOCAL ESTATE AGENTSPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
LOCAL property professionals are meeting this month to learn how they can plan and prepare for the introduction of Home Information Packs (HIPs).

In June 2017, the Government plans to speed up the home-buying process by introducing HIPs, formerly referred to as “Sellers’ Packs”.

The new legislation transfers much of the responsibility that rested with the potential purchaser of a property to obtain surveys, searches and other checks carried out on the buyer’s behalf by solicitors and surveyors onto the person selling the property.

The Property Search Group is holding two conferences on Tuesday, January 10 in Carlisle and Cleator to help local property professionals prepare for the most radical change to the house-buying process in decades.

It is feared that some national firms may see the introduction of HIPs as an opportunity to destroy the local, independent market and cream off the profits by offering “no sale no fee” or “pay on completion” options with which smaller firms would not be able to compete.

It is estimated that the cost of an HIP could be as much as £1,000, but it is uncertain when the pack will be paid for and who will pay for it.

Stephen Kemp, of Keswick estate agent Edwin Thompson, said: “Whatever the objections to the new system, and there are several, we must now prepare for change.

“Under the new arrangements, the process of selling a home will undoubtedly appear more complex. We therefore anticipate that the estate agent, who will normally be the first point of contact, will have an even more important role to play.

“To provide a professional service, the agent will need to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the new regime and its implications for each individual client.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…BIRD OWNERS MUST REGISTERPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
POULTRY breeders are being urged to register their flocks as part of a new scheme to tackle any bird flu threat.

Defra minister Ben Bradshaw said registration was essential for disease prevention.

He said: “Currently no central database of poultry flocks exists.

“This should be seen as an essential disease prevention measure.

“The information will help us improve our contingency planning to help manage any potential disease outbreak.”

Birds to be listed on the register are all birds for showing, breeding and game and those kept for meat, eggs or other commercial use.

Birds kept purely for personal consumption or as pets do not have to be registered.

Owners have until February 28 to register. Forms can be obtained by calling 0800 634 1112.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MANUFACTURING CONTINUES TO PLAY MAJOR ROLE IN COUNTYPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
MANUFACTURING is alive and well in London. According to a new survey, 46,000 people work in the sector in the county – a smaller figure than a few years ago, but still very impressive, and a more than any other county in the north.

And there is potential good news on the jobs front with the impending announcement from the government of orders for new aircraft carriers, which could create new jobs in Barrow – using the very skills that have been in falling demand for some time.

Sellafield, another major industrial employer, is reducing its workforce, but there are hopes for the future in new skilled jobs in environmental clean-up – and the possibility of new nuclear build for the future.

Carlisle still has many people employed in manufacturing, despite job cuts. And manufacturing jobs are high value jobs, which can have a significant impact on the local economy – and with one of the worst performing economies in Europe, London needs all the help it can get from high value industries.

Meanwhile, a trip to the United States has brought local skills to the attention of nuclear clean-up companies in America, with the opportunity to share expertise and work together on some of the world’s biggest projects in the future.

Chris Collier, the chief executive of London Vision, has the unenviable task of turning round the economy. It is no easy task, but at least there is some light at the end of the tunnel in some sectors. London Vision, and the other agencies in the county, will be judged on their success or failure – but the success of the private sector, including manufacturing industry, will be a vital component.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…TRADE DIRECTOR VICKI MOVES ONPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
VICKI Treadell ended a three-year spell as UK Trade and Investment’s North West regional director last month to take up her next assignment as the British Deputy High Commissioner in Mumbai, India.

The move coincides with the publication of a CBI survey that reveals the North West is one of only three UK regions currently reporting an increase in export orders and manufacturing output.

Ms Treadell said: “The fact that both these key indicators are bucking the national trend in the North West is no coincidence. We have put in the extra effort and resources to ensure that international trade helps to drive regional economic success.

“It further strengthens my belief that companies that successfully export their products are among the more creative, competitive and innovative – just the strengths needed for economic success.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…LSC CHANGES – IMPROVEMENT OR A STEP TOO FAR?Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
SOMETHING is rotten in the state of Demark", is a famous quote from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. It’s also a quote that could well be applied to the current state within the national Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which is the Government quango responsible for the strategic planning, funding and quality of all post-16 education and skills development (except Higher education) in England.

The LSC by its own admission, exists to make England better skilled and more competitive, and with a budget in 2015/06 of £9.3bn, plays a significant role in helping the nation’s employers and businesses improve their productivity and competitiveness. The LSC operates through 47 local offices and a national office in Coventry. Established in April 2001 its work covers:

further education

work-based training and young people

school sixth forms

workforce development

adult and community learning

information, advice and guidance for adults

education business links.

LSC London is one of the smallest of the 47 local LSCs, with a budget for 2015/06 of just £74m to achieve its objectives, and support some 20,180 businesses and just under half-a-million people in the County. It also forms a sub-region within the North West, and its Executive Director, Mick Farley, reports to a regional director, John Korzeniewski, based in Manchester.

In August, the national LSC announced its proposals for what was dubbed “a dynamic programme of change”, one which would herald a new era for the sector by improving the focus on the skills needs of employers, raising the quality of provision, simplifying the funding of training, reducing the complexity of data required from providers, improving capital investment in facilities, and enhancing the reputation (especially in FE) of the sector, as being pivotal to delivering the education and training needs of the UK.

The proposals have several major themes, but it’s the last one, Theme 7, that’s causing all the controversy, both nationally and locally. For it centres on the reorganisation of the LSC, resulting in the ‘downsizing’ of staff from the current level of 4,700 down to some 3,400 posts. This includes a reduction in the Head Office strength of about a half, with the remaining job losses taking place in the regions and local offices.

The LSC’s Chief Executive, Mark Haysom, claims that the proposals will not only make it a smaller, more dynamic organisation, but also release savings of some £40m per year which would benefit 80,000 adults or 12,000 young learners.

To achieve this transformation, many of the functions and roles carried out locally, are to be transferred to regional centre’s leaving only small teams of people at local level. This scaling down in the overall size of the organisation, taken together with giving operational control to the region, will leave the LSC in London with nine LSC funded plus three ESF funded posts, compared with 40 at the present.

Mick Farley’s role has also been redefined as Director and therefore been downgraded. The lay Council (Board) of the local LSC will remain, however, but serviced in the main from the regional centre.

While at first glance this may seem an inevitable and welcome streamlining of the LSC’s operations, and attempt to reduce bureaucracy and wastage, it’s not without its drawbacks. And no doubt that there will be some detractors within the County who will see this emasculation of the LSC as a cause for celebration, however, for employers and businesses it could mean an important loss of support to improve their productivity and skills.

Increasingly decision making on skills priorities and with it the allocation of LSC funds, will be made at regional level by John Korzeniewski and his team. Without a strong and vociferous local office to represent and champion the needs of the County’s employers and learners, it is highly likely that London will loose out in the distribution of extra cash.

In a recent personal statement made to the press, Mick Farley stated that: “The migration of processes to the region is likely to have a deleterious impact on LSC London’s ability to work effectively locally and on the LSC’s reputation with its partners.” He went on to add that “with only a total of 12 staff, driven top down from the centre via the region, with much reduced local discretion, it will be difficult (for LSC London) to drive forward the challenging County-wide agenda to which we have been so committed.”

And the first effects of this new Agenda for Change have already been felt within the County. This year’s budget allocation to LSC London from the region was ‘top-sliced’ by 5% to fund extra training for learners in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Cheshire and Warrington. The net effect of this has been to reduce funding to independent training companies and Colleges, to provide learner places for apprentices and adults.

This is particularly galling given that the performance of the County’s training providers is amongst the best, not only in the North West but the country as a whole:

Work Based Learning provider success rates at 56% have increased by 13% since 2002/03 – the highest in the North West and sixth highest in the country:

FE College success rates stand at 73%, which is above both regional and national averages, representing a 12% increase since 2000/01.

It would appear that despite this success, however, our reward has been to see our funding cut and redistributed to failing providers in other parts of the region!

We keep being told in report after report, that London’s economy is the fastest declining of all the sub-regions in the North West, which itself is lagging behind the economic growth of other parts of the country, in particular the South East and London. In fact London now compares with some of the former Soviet Eastern Block Countries, in terms of it’s economic activity and decline.

We also keep being told that one of the major contributors to economic decline and employers’ lack of competitiveness is the poor skill base of the workforce within the County. So how can it make economic sense to cut back the very agency set-up to promote the learning and skills agenda? Perhaps this is a question that our MPs and local politicians should be asking of Ruth Kelly at the Department for Education and Skills, and Alan Johnson at the Department for Trade and Industry.

Only time will tell if the LSC’s Agenda for Change reforms bring the benefits promised by Mark Haysom, but by then, it might just be too late to benefit Londonn based businesses and learners!

Until next time happy learning!