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Covid-19 ‘escape route’ in sight, says Prime Minister
November 23, 2020

The Prime Minister has said he can see an escape route out of the Covid-19 pandemic during a statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon. Boris Johnson, who is still self-isolating, was speaking via video link to MPs and outlined the return of the Rule of Six, business events up to a certain capacity and a return to a tiered system when the national lockdown in England ends next week. Speaking on the same day that the Oxford University/Astra Zeneca vaccine breakthrough, Johnson said that the “scientific cavalry is in sight” and that the UK has ordered 350 million doses of the three different vaccines that have so far proved successful in trials – enough to safeguard every UK citizen at home and overseas. However, he urged caution, adding: “We’re not there yet. We need to get through through the winter without squandering the gains we’ve made during the last few weeks. That’s why our Winter Plan can help us get through until the Spring.” The Prime Minister warned that the previous tier system hadn’t been enough to reduce the R number below 1. This time around, he said, the tiers would be tougher. In Tier 1 people would be encouraged to work from home. It Tier 2 hospitality venues would only be allowed to open if they served a substantial meal, and in Tier 3 all hospitality venues would be closed, except for takeaways. He said that most areas would, from next week, fall into higher tiers than they were previously in – and that these will be regional rather than on district terms and will be announced on Thursday of this week (November 23). All gyms, hairdressers and personal care businesses will open again next Wednesday, he added, and outdoors sports can resume. Previous tiers not quite enough to reduce R number below 1. The Prime Minister also outlined the launch of a major community testing programme offering all Tier 3 communities a “six week surge” of testing. He ended by saying: “This is not a pandemic without end. From next month the NHS will embark on a vaccine programme the likes of which we have never seen before. An escape route is in sight.”    

6,000 jobs to be created as Rolls-Royce-led consortium unveils nuclear plans
November 16, 2020

A new consortium led by Rolls-Royce says it will create 6,000 regional jobs over the next five years after revealing plans to build 16 mini nuclear power stations. The UK SMR consortium says it wants to build the small scale facilities over the next 20 years in an effort to help secure the UK’s net zero commitments affordably, revitalise its regional industrial base and secure exports of at least £250bn. Up to 80% (by value) of the power station components will be made in factories in the Midlands and North of England, before being transported to existing nuclear sites around the country for rapid assembly inside weatherproof canopies. Rolls-Royce has a key plant at Barnoldswick, in Lancashire, where it is currently in dispute with unions over plans to axe 350 jobs. In August, Rolls-Royce announced it would offshore production of its Trent Engine blades, which are made at Barnoldswick, to a factory in Singapore. As well as a further 34,000 long-term jobs by the mid-2030s, mostly high value manufacturing rolls, Rolls says the power stations will also provide low carbon energy to produce net zero synthetic aviation fuels and hydrogen, supporting the UK Government’s Net Zero ambition and the wider decarbonisation of transport. ~~Tom Samson, interim chief Executive of the UK SMR Consortium, said: “We have developed a manufacturing and assembly process that will make reliable, low carbon nuclear power affordable, deliverable and investable. “By creating a factory-built power station that rolls off the assembly line we have radically reduced many construction risks associated with new nuclear power stations, and by using proven nuclear technology alongside standardised and simplified components, we make it much more cheaply. “Our consortium combines decades of nuclear experience and pioneering world-class manufacturing expertise. We represent the strength that UK industry has to offer in our fight against climate change.” The UK SMR consortium is comprised of Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Rolls-Royce and TWI. Each compact nuclear power station will provide 440MW of electricity, enough low carbon power for a city of 450,000 homes for 60 years. The first unit will be operational within 10 years of the first order, with the factories able to produce two units per year, thereafter. Doubling or trebling the number of factories would allow more power stations to be made more quickly to meet additional UK and international demand, says Rolls. The news is particularly welcome for the manufacturer which has suffered badly at the hands of the aviation industry collapse. Earlier this year, Rolls said it would be cutting around 3,000 UK jobs in order to safeguard its future.

Acquisition completed at international logistics operator
November 10, 2020

Eric Rosen, managing partner of Hudson Hill, said: “We target companies founded by entrepreneurs and run by high-quality management teams with whom we can partner to bring the company to the next level of growth. “InXpress presents a unique platform to continue to build the business globally and offer a wider set of freight solutions. We look forward to working closely and in partnership with existing management shareholders, Mark Taylor, Adam Thompson, Dustin Hansen, and the entire management team.” Mark Taylor, global CEO of InXpress since 2015, a franchising expert who has spent the past 20 years working with private equity companies from the UK, US, and mainland Europe, said: “Most SME shippers do not have access to a simple, centralised transportation shipping solution like InXpress. “Nor do they have access to experts in shipping at a local level, which is part of the service InXpress offers. “The InXpress platform offers one-stop shipping solutions that leverage our expertise, dedicated customer service, and entrenched relationships with multiple carriers to provide business-to-business and e-commerce customers choice, scalability, and highly competitive rates to simplify all of their shipping needs. “We are excited to work with the experienced Hudson Hill team to enhance our business and consistently improve our service offering to our global customers.” Adam Thompson, CEO InXpress EMEA, who helped to start the business, said: “I am extremely proud of the company my father founded, which has seen huge growth over the past 20+ years. “We are all very excited to continue the company’s growth trajectory by partnering with the HHC team who recognise our potential and to drive the next phase of InXpress’s growth.” Dustin Hansen, CEO InXpress Americas since 2013 and member of the board of directors of the International Franchise Association, said: “The ideal InXpress customer prefers to bring simplicity to their international, domestic, e-commerce, and freight shipping needs. “Carriers benefit from access to our highly fragmented SME customer base and simpler customer service requirements by outsourcing a number of support and back office functions to InXpress.” KPMG led the transaction with a combined team from KPMG UK corporate finance – Christian Mayo, Claire Frangou, Patrick Simpson, Hannah Taylor and Sarah Bowen – alongside KPMG US corporate finance – Stephen Guy, Chris Weber, David Lazarek and Ranny Ma. Deal advisory services were provided by KPMG transaction services – Sue Richardson, Steve Heath, Claire Elcock, Jack Pearson, Jake Williams, Harry Spencer and Claire McGuire – and KPMG debt advisory – Chris Lloyd, Stephen Detko. Christian Mayo said: “InXpress is a leading example of a high-quality software-enabled business, achieving very significant growth on a global scale and with huge potential. “This deal was highly contested and demonstrates the extremely strong M&A market for businesses that are continuing to perform in the current environment. “This process was conducted right across the global pandemic period and is a testament to the expertise of all involved.” Squire Patton Boggs advised the shareholders and management of InXpress, with a cross-border team led by corporate partners Paul Mann (Leeds), Giles Chesher (Manchester) and Danielle Asaad (Cleveland, Ohio), assisted by Hannah Crosland, Emily Downie, Rebecca Mayers, Mona Mojtabavi, Olivia Baccarella and Andrew Griesser. Park Place Corporate Finance (Tim Simpson and Richard Firth) were Strategic advisors to the InXpress shareholders and acted as lead advisers to the reinvesting management. Private investment firm Hudson Hill has acquired a majority stake in a North West logistics group, for an undisclosed sum. New York-based Hudson Hill Capital, founded by Eric Rosen, has bought the stake in Rochdale-based InXpress Holdings Ltd, a software-enabled global franchisor of transportation and logistics services, in partnership with the company’s senior management team. The transaction reinforces InXpress’s long-term commitment to provide world-class transportation and logistics solutions to small and medium-sized businesses. InXpress is an international franchisor of parcel, freight, and delivery logistics services serving SME customers through a software platform and global network of almost 400 franchises in 14 countries. Established in 1999, the company maintains relationships with tier-one parcel, air, and freight carriers around the world, offering discounted rates to franchisees that form relationships with SME customers through its direct salesforce. The company also offers its SME customers and franchisees a SaaS platform, enabling franchisees to effectively manage customer service and customers to centrally manage their transportation and logistics requirements. InXpress built its online software platform, Webship+, on more than 20 years of insight. Webship+’s easy-to-use software features include bespoke tailoring of best rates within their carrier network, a bulk upload tool to quickly manage multiple orders, and integration with all of the main e-commerce platforms.