Strategies to land the perfect catch

The question of how best to grow a business is asked again and again and again. Organic or acquisitive – either way the intended end-result is the same: the greater efficiencies and profitability that come through economies of scale and increased market clout.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with organic growth, it’s just that it takes time. It’s an option that Nick Dixon, director at Veriteva and a long-term buyer and seller of businesses in print, says firms should consider because “if acquisition is the focus there are a whole multitude of factors to consider… culture, financials, personnel, client overlap, market dynamics to name just a few.”

Even so, acquisition offers benefits which may be enough to sway any investor looking for a good return.

In essence, acquisition offers immediate cashflow as the target is already trading; brand recognition because the target has existing marketing, advertising, client contracts, trained employees and third-party relationships and is known within its trade sector; financing because a lender can see historical performance; trained employees – one of the most valuable assets in any business are employees that know the job; existing systems and infrastructure, which may need integration but which mean that the target is already running; and management which is invaluable in making introductions.

In contrast, setting up a new unit from scratch takes time, resources and finance that many firms struggle to provide.

So how should firms acquire?

Aim at a target

One obvious question is how should a firm identify a likely candidate?

Paul Holohan, chief executive of Richmond Capital Partners, a mergers and acquisitions specialist, reckons that the first step is to be clear on strategy: “Ask yourself why you are doing it and compare acquisition to alternative strategies. If you reach the conclusion that acquisition is the most appropriate approach then you need to develop a profile of the ideal target.”

Once they have created a profile, buyers should conduct market research and create a list of potential targets. Alternatively, as Paul Taylor, partner in the corporate department of law firm Fox Williams, suggests, a finance firm could be appointed to list targets. It’s an easier option, if expensive: “Particularly if you are looking for a domestic UK acquisition, the list of targets will often feature competitors of whom you are probably already aware. As such, paying a large finder fee may not be necessary if you know the market well and know of shareholders who may be interested in a disposal.”

Andrew Scrimgeour, former owner and chairman of label maker AJS Group, echoes this. He also recommends using a corporate adviser, but adds acquirers should know the potential targets’ “strengths and weaknesses and their likely receptiveness to an approach.”

Scrimgeour says that a good law firm experienced in mergers and acquisition is a “must have”. He advises firms to consider the reasons for the transaction: “Are your objectives to grow turnover, market share, gain economies of scale? What about geographic expansion, product range, acquisition of key staff or building scale to make you more saleable?” He emphatically advises against the pursuit of a target just to massage an ego.

David Sharpe, director at Pierce Group, a business advisery firm, takes a different tack and suggests that acquirers should consider what their offering is missing: “Print has several strands and so the key for an ambitious acquirer would be to identify and target the missing links in the business product portfolio.” He says that by doing this “the basket of goods is expanded and the cross-selling opportunities become significant.” He points to the example of Calderprint, a well-established trade printer which acquired Whitney Woods, which is in pop-up promotional products.

The first approach

Firms on the acquisition trail need to be cautious about how they hunt for a target. Scrimgeour says that if the owners are already known acquirers can approach, sensitively – “many owners can be flattered but some may be threatened.” Alternatively, an adviser can make a professional approach or suppliers with the right connections can open doors.

But how should you make an approach? Taylor says: “A direct telephone call to gauge the level of interest would normally be the most appropriate channel of communication. They can only say ‘no’ and if there is interest, a non-disclosure agreement can be put in place to facilitate further negotiations.” 

For some, the secrecy of the approach is very important and using a third party to make the initial contact can be useful. Pierce Group, for example, make contact but without mentioning a buyer’s identity – “the fact the letter comes from a reputable corporate financier with pedigree lends credibility,” says Sharpe.

And ‘letter’ is the key word as far as Holohan is concerned. “An email is an absolute no. The best method is a letter to the major shareholder personally signed. Even better is a letter from your adviser – as long as the adviser is known and respected in the industry.” 

He adds that research has shown that response rates are better through a trusted adviser. Contrary to Taylor, Holohan says that telephone calls can be interpreted as lacking in sensitivity and can be risky.

But while professional advisers can help, Dixon says that an initial approach doesn’t have to be either formal or complex: “An approach may be just as simple as picking up the phone and meeting for a coffee.”

Types of acquisition

According to Holohan, the most common reason for an acquisition in the printing industry in recent years is that of rationalisation of costs over two sites. “It gives an excellent opportunity to reduce costs and create one successful business,” he says, adding that the strategy could be driven by physical needs – a lease could be expiring on the existing property or premises may now have been outgrown. “In this situation, you may be looking to relocate to the target’s premises.”

The reality is that each situation is different, which is why Dixon says the purchase “very much depends upon how the target company is structured, who the ultimate owners are, and what type of owners are involved. Family, private equity, or is it a disparate shareholding?”

The next question to consider is whether to buy shares or the assets. Here Taylor notes that: “Given the favourable Capital Gains Tax rates and Entrepreneurs’ Relief, management shareholders will normally be looking to sell shares.” But his comment comes with a warning: as all liabilities will be inherited on a share acquisition, the acquirer will need to take extra care with its due diligence. Scrimgeour agrees and says acquirers should not underestimate the amount of due diligence. He says: “There are very important differences between acquiring the share capital and buying the assets or the book of business… seek professional counsel is my advice.”

Of course, everyone has a different perspective on what they want (or can afford) to buy. Some want elements, others want the whole business – the preferred option for Sharpe. Why? As he sees it, while there may be a duplication of resources, “if the business is broken up and sold in chunks, complications arise with restrictive covenants, tax issues for the seller, warranties (guarantees), etc.” He favours purchase by way of a share sale.

Due diligence

Understanding what is being bought is key. Although acquirers will usually be able to obtain warranties from shareholders, there is no substitute for extensive due diligence. Taylor says the process falls into three distinct areas – legal which will be handled by lawyers; financial and tax which will be dealt with by accountants; and commercial which falls to the acquirer. “Increasingly,” says Taylor, “online data rooms are being set up with the information being populated by the management team. If any skeletons in the cupboard are identified, these can be turned into indemnities and, as such, risk stays with the vendors.” 

Dixon says that that while financial due diligence is important, “own desktop research should be done before an approach is made along with market and commercial due diligence when into a deal.”

And own research is much easier nowadays. Holohan points out that research should be a mixture of financial information in the public domain (Companies House, online databases, etc) and other information gained discreetly through industry sources. He adds, however, that “it is important to remember that financial information can be months out of date and cannot be relied upon to give an accurate view of the firm’s financial health.”

Workplace culture clash

Acquirers need to recognise that buying the assets of a firm is one thing, but a business also comes with the staff already employed and they must get along with the acquirer’s staff. There are countless examples where mergers and acquisitions have failed because of culture clash – Daimler and Chrysler, AOL and Time Warner, HP and Compaq.

Culture is something that Dixon looks closely at. While each target is different, he says: “I always view a compatibility of culture as one of the key requirements.” Sharpe takes the same perspective, noting that inevitably “there is a learning curve following acquisition in order that both firms can gain an understanding and make the necessary adjustments to working practices.” He thinks the due diligence meetings usually indicate if the businesses can adapt. 

Holohan says to look at the top – board level – for clues on possible culture issues. “Leadership styles can differ immensely and cause confusion. Even worse is confusion where the former owner continues in some capacity.” 

Taking precautions

Of course, not every business bought is in rude health and if the target is in trouble the purchaser should be particularly cautious. Where a distressed target is involved creditors can apply pressure, which must be considered when arriving at a valuation.

A question to ask is what is the reason for the decline? Holohan says that while it could be the loss of a major client or a bad debt, “if there are no obvious reasons, it suggests that the target can no longer compete in the market. You may or may not be able to correct this.”

One option that Taylor suggests is to wait until the target goes into a formal insolvency process and then make an offer to the administrator or liquidator when the price should be considerably lower. But he warns: “As there will be no warranties, you would be acquiring on a ‘buyer beware’ basis.”

Alternatively, Holohan says to buy the trade and selected assets of firms in trouble “so that you are not taking full responsibility for past actions (or inaction).” He adds that a thorough analysis of three years’ accounts is essential. 

Sharpe says to look out for Crown debt arrears such as PAYE and VAT – “a time to pay arrangement is crucial if a live rescue is to be completed”.

However, buying in distressed circumstances means that there’s the risk of a lack of support from existing customers due to lack of confidence in the business, and from creditors who would have suffered due to the business failure – something that Dixon has experienced, noting that it’s important to secure the supply chain when a firm is in trouble.

Similarly, Scrimgeour knows to be aware of issues as “turning a business round in print can be very difficult, especially where competition is stiff and there is sector oversupply.” 

Acquisition cost

Buying involves substantial costs and many are not insignificant. Purchasers should budget for the corporate finance finder’s fee, accountants’ costs, legal fees (legal drafting, due diligence and deal completion matters), insurance warranty payments and costs allied with any associated funding. Taylor regularly sees these as “being over 10% of the purchase price depending on the size of the deal.” 

Sharpe says acquirers should not ignore property and any stamp duty that is payable. And just as importantly he notes the hidden cost of TUPE “which only crystallises if there is a staff restructure following the takeover”.

And Taylor mentions one more expense that is harder to quantify – time: “Arguably the biggest cost is the huge drain on the management teams of the buyer and seller. It is important to make sure that the acquisition doesn’t become a huge distraction and the underlying business is not neglected.”

Parting words

Everyone has a different risk profile and set of aims. As Dixon says: “An acquisition is not for the faint hearted – you should consider if you are better off focusing your energy on organic growth or taking a larger risk with an acquisition.”

In an ideal world, a transaction should be smooth with no significant identified issues and two sets of employees that rub along well together. However, we don’t live in an ideal world and printing businesses need to invest time in finding the right target and doing their homework. 

The process

Consider your reasons for buying a business. Is it to grow faster than would otherwise happen with organic growth? Is it to remove a rival? Will it fill a gap in the product and service offering? Or is it through physical necessity – to increase capacity or seek more appropriate plant and premises? If the reasons are unclear then no action should be taken.

Seek out the target but be sensitive in the approach. Consider if contacts and suppliers have inside knowledge that may be of assistance. Also look to appoint an industry trusted third-party adviser who can make discreet enquiries.

Appoint appropriate advisers to deal with legal, accountancy, tax, and employment matters. Using existing advisers may not suit as they are unlikely to have the necessary experience for “one-off” transactions such as buying a business.

Unless the acquisition is being self-financed or is a share-based deal, finance will need to be arranged. Lenders will want to see three years’ of accounts, financial projections, a solid business plan, information on the key personnel, and details of assets and liabilities.

Due diligence – the checking of facts – is central to the buying process. This needs to be undertaken properly to establish what is being bought, what the risks and liabilities are, and if the target is worth the price being asked.

Legal responsibilities to employees

Both buyer and seller should think about the impact of the acquisition on their respective employees during the early stages of negotiations. Employees involved in a business acquisition can sometimes have a significant level of protection – which in practice means that dismissing employees following an acquisition can be restricted. The cost consequences of getting something wrong can be substantial and so it is important to understand the application of the law and its practical implications.

The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) is the key piece of legislation in the area, and if it applies, it can have consequences.

Employees immediately and automatically transfer from their existing employer to the acquiring business on the transfer of the business. The incoming employer inherits not only all of the employees but also the outgoing employer’s liabilities and obligations in respect to those employees.

There is an obligation on both the outgoing and incoming employers to inform and in some cases, consult with representatives of the employees affected by the transfer.

TUPE gives enhanced protection against unfair dismissal. This protection can cover not only the employees of the seller but also the buyer’s employees.

TUPE also applies where a change of contractors takes place in what is called a service provision change.

Bodies that need to be informed

When a company is acquired, official bodies and authorities need to be informed. The penalties for non-compliance can be serious and may lead to fines and prosecution. The changes can be reported online but if the company has no online account it will need to register first. Alternatively, paper-based notification is permitted, but it’s advisable to keep a proof of posting.

HM Revenue & Customs, the administrator and enforcer of many business-related taxes, needs to know of the establishment, cessation of trading, or change in ownership of a business. The main considerations are for VAT, PAYE Income Tax, National Insurance, self-assessment of Income Tax, and Corporation Tax. HMRC has a page that details taxing issues relevant to a business ( and a page where changes can be notified to it (

For a company or partnership, notification also needs to be made to Companies House which has a page for notification (

Local authorities need to know about change of occupation if premises are vacated or if a new organisation becomes responsible for a premises’ business rates. Firms will need to contact their local authority to notify.

It’s important not to forget about utilities suppliers – gas, water, electricity and telecoms. Firms moving into ‘new’ premises should not assume that not signing a new contract with the existing supplier to the premises will offer best value.

Potential pitfalls and hazards

Key hazards to note are the threat of loss of business due to change of control, changing relationships and the possible loss of key staff following the takeover. These can be managed by having close liaison with customers and offering staff revised employment contracts that come with incentives.

A good valuation is critical. For this the acquirer would be best advised using an adviser with industry knowledge for valuations rather than the acquirer’s own accountant. 

Buyers should be aware of the possibility of getting caught up in ‘deal fever’ and so bypass effective and proven processes – especially due diligence. Without this key step buyers will have no idea about the veracity of what they are being told.

Buying a business from an administrator is risky. Their job is not to help the buyer but to realise the greatest possible value for the creditors. This means that there is only a limited opportunity for due diligence and rarely will any warranties (guarantees) be provided.

The adage that ‘people buy people’ applies to staff as much as it does to the seller and customer relationship. Ignoring any potential staffing and culture issues can do more damage than any over-valuation.

Management must continue running the existing business and keep it performing. It can become very easy to be distracted by the acquisition process.

Existing contracts and arrangements will need to be honoured once/if the former management leaves.

Pierce advises Calderprint on Whitney Woods acquisition


Pierce Group’s corporate finance and accountancy divisions have advised Lancashire printing group Calderprint on the acquisition of innovative printed promotional gift company, Whitney Woods for an undisclosed sum.

The deal takes Calderprint’s turnover to £10 million, employing 140 people across four sites.

Formerly based in Rossendale, the 20-strong Whitney Woods workforce has relocated to Calderprint’s headquarters in Dunnockshaw, near Burnley.

The Dunnockshaw premises was acquired by Calderprint upon the completion of its £932,000 deal to buy the buildings and assets of historic printer Hudson & Pearson in February this year. Pierce Group also advised on this deal, which was backed by NatWest Bank and the Lancashire Business Growth Fund.

Calderprint owner and managing director, Peter Birbeck, worked with Pierce for over four months to acquire a controlling interest in Whitney Woods from owner and managing director, Chris Woods.

Mr Woods founded Whitney Woods in 1992 with late business partner Paul Whitney. He retains a minority stake and is remaining with the business as a director.

Mr Birbeck said: “The team at Pierce has supported me through many years of growth at Calderprint and it was fantastic to have their expert advice for the next stage of the group’s development.

“Whitney Woods’ products are very unique and create a talking point as they produce memorable promotions for businesses. We look forward to taking this innovative product range to Calderprint’s trade customer base.

“Calderprint and Whitney Woods have been trading partners for 25 years so we have a really strong partnership.”


Pierce Corporate Finance Director David Sharpe said: “Calderprint is a forward-looking company which always seizes the moment when it comes to new business opportunities. We are delighted to have played a key role in securing the next stage in Calderprint’s expansion and look forward to supporting them in the future.”


Chris Woods, former owner of Whitney Woods, said: “I started Whitney Woods 25 years ago and recently retirement has been at the back of my mind. I wanted to sell the business that I worked so hard to create to the right company.

“Becoming part of the Calderprint Group is fantastic for Whitney Woods. It will open up exciting new opportunities for our unique product range.”


Legal advisors to Calderprint for the deal were Farleys Solicitors. Debbie King, Partner at Farley Solicitors, said: “Calderprint has enjoyed strong and sustainable growth over the years and the acquisition of Whitney Woods is a fantastic addition to the business. Peter and the management team have a clear plan for further business growth and we wish them every success for the future.”

HIVE Event Invitation

HIVE Event Invitation – to all businesses in Blackburn with Darwen

Hive event-invite1

Calling all of the borough’s businesses!

You are invited to join us on:

Thursday 8th October 2015 (registration from 10:00am)

For the launch of BwD Hive C.I.C

A new Community Interest Company designed to further the objectives of the original Hive business leaders’ network, and ensure that all businesses within the borough, large and small, have the opportunity to play their part.

Any businesses wishing to register their interest in attending the Hive event on Thursday, October 8 can do so via the Hive website here

With the help of Hive, business is buzzing in the borough.

Hive Event

New investors are in town too and we’re delighted to confirm that our keynote speaker at the launch will be Creative Director and fashion designer Patrick Grant.

A passion for clothing, craftsmanship and British brands led Patrick to Savile Row tailors Norton & Sons which he took over in 2005.

In 2009 Patrick re-launched the historic British sporting and military tailoring house of E. Tautz.

In 2013 he launched Hammond & Co in the UK in partnership with Debenhams.

In 2015, Patrick took the helm at Blackburn-based Cookson and Clegg.

As a borough with a proud textile and manufacturing heritage, C&C have been producing clothing in Blackburn since 1860 making them one of the longest serving UK clothing manufacturers.

Patrick is a regular on the BBC both on television and radio, including the major documentaries Savile Row, Harris Tweed, and The Perfect Suit, and the on-going BBC2 Series The Great British Sewing Bee.

To register your interest in attending, please contact us here. Don’t forget to join the Hive network too if you’re not already a member.

About HIVE

Hive was first launched in 2012 with the aim of turning Blackburn with Darwen into a world-class business area.

Since then, 250 local organisations from micro to multinational have pledged their support; we’ve had recognition of Hive’s role in improving the local business environment (Enterprising Britain Awards, 2014); we’ve hosted leading figures from within industry and we’ve celebrated the very best of business via the inaugural Hive Business Awards.

Despite a new CiC structure, the aims of Hive remain the same and are underpinned by the town’s famous motto of arte at labore – by skill and hard work.

With a proud history of manufacturing and making, we want to continue to raise the profile of Blackburn with Darwen, locally and across the wider UK, as a great place to do business; we want to attract more investment; we want to create new and long-lasting partnerships amongst local business leaders which help the borough to prosper and improve opportunities for residents – especially our young people.

Any businesses wishing to register their interest in attending the Hive event on Thursday, October 8 can do so via the Hive website here

Khalid Saifullah, Chair of the Hive Network and Director of Star Tissue UK



R&D Tax Credits – Are you missing out?

By: Tom Wilkinson   Research and Development Tax Specialist



R&D Tax Credits

….. Are You Missing Out?


Many trading businesses often do not realise they are or have previously undertaken Research & Development (‘’R&D’’) activities in their business.  We are successfully securing R&D tax credit claims for clients.  The credits are generous and allow small and medium sized businesses to claim 230% (from April 2015) of actual R&D costs incurred for up to the past 2 financial years.

So, if you have incurred R&D expenditure of say £100,000 on a project then you can claim £230,000 as a credit against profits in the particular year(s) incurred.  This could generate a refund or tax saving of £46,000.

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Our fees are entirely success based and we will be happy to discuss these further.  Pierce have a good working relationship with HMRC’s specialist R&D tax units and have a 100% track record with all claims.
We have helped our clients claim over £2 million of qualifying Research & Development relief and we could help yours.

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The definition of R&D is quite wide and it is worth considering if you have….

  • Made bespoke products or customised products
  • Developed any new products or involved with introducing them
  • Made any environmental improvements to your processes
  • Consistently made manufacturing processes improvements
  • Carried out design work in-house or sub-contracted design
  • Carried out prototyping or made models, patterns or tooling
  • Developed or improved any in-house software
  • Changed the composition of your products in response to changes in legislation
  • Consider yourself to be a market leader in a product, process or technology
  • Regularly problem solving to meet your customers’ needs

Many companies are unaware of the activities that can qualify for R&D relief.  Pierce C. A. Limited have specialist skills and knowledge of the R&D tax system and are able to help you identify qualifying projects and formulate a successful claim.

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Client Testimonials

From David Baxendale at Promedics Orthapaedic Limited

Tom Wilkinson from Pierce proactively found and recommended corporation tax savings for our company that resulted in a 2 year corporation tax refund. He worked under his own initiative and ensured that HMRC agreed with his calculations. Tom’s drive and professionalism was first class and we would highly recommend his and Pierce’s services.”

From Richard Mottram at Hills Panel Products Limited

Pierce compiled an extremely detailed and comprehensive Research and Development Tax claim on the company’s behalf which lead to a significant corporation tax saving.

The report and associated computations were a significant improvement from our previous R&D tax advisers and was also undertaken in a very timely manner”


The Budget 2015 in full

The Budget 2015 in Full

Chancellors red box

Read the Budget document in full.

Download our detailed budget report as a pdf.

UPDATE: Download the presentation slides from our budget breakfast review.

The Chancellor has presented his Budget to Parliament – here’s a summary of what was announced.

1. The UK had the fastest growth in the G7 in 2014

The UK economy had the fastest annual growth among G7 economies in 2014, and the strongest annual growth since 2007. At the end of 2014, employment had reached its highest ever level, unemployment has been falling in every region across the UK, and inflation is at a record low.

But risks still remain and there is still more to do to support businesses and boost p

Read the Budget document in full.

2. Debt will be falling as a share of GDP in 2015-16

Debt will be falling as a share of GDP from 2015-16. This is a year earlier than forecast at Autumn Statement.

By 2014-15, the deficit is forecast to have fallen by half, from 10.2% at its peak in 2009-10, to 5% in 2014-15.

In 2018-19, the government will have a surplus (will raise more in taxes than is being spent) of £5.2 billion.

Access the Treasury’s set of Budget infographics, explaining some of the key announcements.

3. The tax-free personal allowance is being increased in April 2017, to £11,000

To make work pay and ensure families keep more of the money they earn, the tax-free personal allowance – the amount people earn before they have to start paying tax – will rise to £10,800 in 2016-17, and £11,000 the year after.

The increases to the personal allowance from £6475 in 2010, to £11,000 in 2017-18 will save a typical taxpayer £905.

To make sure the full benefits of the personal allowance increase are passed on to higher rate taxpayers, the government will also increase above inflation the point above at which higher earners start paying 40% tax. It will increase by £315 in 2016-17, and by £600 in 2017-18 – taking it to £43,300 in 2017-18.

4. A new Personal Savings Allowance will take 95% of taxpayers out of savings tax altogether

From April 2016, a tax-free allowance of £1,000 (or £500 for higher rate taxpayers) will be introduced for the interest that people earn on savings.

If they are a basic rate taxpayer and have a total income up to £42,700 a year, they will be eligible for the £1,000 tax-free savings allowance.

If they are a higher rate taxpayer and earn from £42,701 to £150,000, they’ll be eligible for a £500 tax-free savings allowance.

Access the Treasury Personal Savings Allowance one page explainer factsheet.

5. Introducing the Help to Buy ISA – every £200 people save towards their first home, the government will put in an extra £50, up to a maximum bonus of £3000

The government has already helped people to buy a home with Help to Buy, which allows people to purchase a home with just a 5% deposit.

The government is now going further. To help first time buyers save for a deposit, it is introducing a Help to Buy ISA.

People will be able to open an ISA, save up to £200 a month towards their first home, and the government will boost it by 25%. That’s a £50 bonus for every £200 people save, up to £3000.

Access the Treasury’s Help to Buy: ISA one page explainer factsheet.

6. People will have complete freedom to take money out of an ISA and put it back in later in the year

ISAs are being reformed so that instead of being able to put up to £15,240 in the 2015-16 tax year into an ISA in total, people can take out their money and put it back in within the same year, without losing their ISA tax benefits – as long as the repayment is made in the same financial year as the withdrawal.

7. £1.25 billion for children’s’ mental health services

An extra £1.25 billion will be spent on mental health services for children and new mums – helping more than 110,000 people.

8. Cancelling the fuel duty increase scheduled for September

Fuel duty will be frozen again; since 2011, the government has cut and frozen fuel duty, saving a typical motorist a total of £675 by the end of 2015-16.

By the end of 2015-16 fuel duty will have been frozen for five years, resulting in the longest duty freeze in over 20 years.

9. Cutting beer duty for the third year in a row

There will be another penny off a pint, a 2% cut for spirits and most ciders, and a freeze on duty on wine.

10. Up to five million pensioners will be given the freedom to sell their annuity for a cash lump sum

From April 2016, people who already have an annuity will be able to now effectively sell it on, so that they too can benefit from the pension freedoms announced at last year’s Budget.

Currently, people who have bought an annuity are unable to sell it without having to pay at least 55% tax on it. From April 2016, the tax rules will change so that people who already have income from an annuity can sell that when they choose and will pay their usual rate of tax they pay on income, instead of 55%.

11. Charities will be able to claim more gift aid on small donations

The amount of small donations charities can get an extra 25% top up payment on in gift aid without needing any paperwork is increasing from £5,000 to £8,000 a year.

The government expects 6,500 charities to claim in full the higher new cash boost of £2,000 a year – nearly double the current amount.

12. Farmers will have more time to average their profits for income tax

This extends the period from two to five years, and will give farmers additional security as they typically have volatile profits due to uncontrollable factors such as the weather.

13. We will abolish the annual tax return

Millions of individuals will have the information HMRC needs automatically uploaded into new digital tax accounts. Businesses will feel like they are paying a simple, single business tax – and again, for most, the information needed will be automatically received.

14. Support for all regions across the UK

Working with Transport for the North, the government will look at rolling out better roads, quicker journeys and improved rail connections between the major cities of the north, as part of the government’s plan to build a Northern powerhouse.

The government is also giving even more powers to local areas, with a new devolution deal for things like transport, business support and skills for West Yorkshire, and more planning powers for London.

Ten Enterprise Zones across the country are also being supported to go further to create growth and jobs.

The government is also working on a Cardiff city deal and opening negotiations on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.

15. Making sure banks pay their fair share

The government is increasing the rate of the bank levy (one of the taxes that banks pay) from 1 April 2015.

This will raise an additional £900 million a year.

16. Increased support for the oil and gas sector

The oil and gas sector provides highly-skilled jobs, energy security and makes a significant contribution to the UK economy.

To encourage further investment in the North Sea, the government will introduce a new Investment Allowance and reduce the supplementary tax charge on oil and gas companies further, from 30% to 20%, from 1 January 2015.

The rate of Petroleum Revenue Tax paid on older oil and gas fields will also be reduced from 50% to 35%.

These changes are expected to increase oil production by around 15% by 2019, and drive £4 billion of new investment over the next five years.

17. Faster broadband and better mobile networks

The government is investing up to £600 million to deliver better mobile networks, and is announcing a new ambition that ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second should become available to nearly all UK premises in the country.

18. Introducing postgraduate research loans

Loans up to £25,000 will be available for postgraduate PHD and masters research students.

The government will also conduct a review into how the government can strengthen its funding for postgraduate research.

19. Further investment in science and innovation

Future economic success depends on future science success. The government is investing £140 million in world class research on the infrastructure and cities of the future, and £40 million in research into what is known as the Internet of Things. This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances.

The government is also launching a new UK research initiative into the future potential of digital currency technology, supported by a £10 million increase in funding in this area.

20. The government will consult on a tax relief for local newspapers

Local newspapers are a vital part of community life, but they’ve had a tough time – so the government is announcing a consultation on how to can provide them with tax support.


Video: Interview in The Telegraph

From: Mark Maden-Wilkinson

Congratulations to Keith Ashworth-Lord

Keith Ashworth-Lord

on his interview with Kyle Caldwell in The Telegraph today.

Interview in The Telegraph

11:35AM BST 04 Jul 2014

Kyle Caldwell of the Daily Telegraph

British savers who want to tuck some money away with legendary investor Warren Buffett need deep pockets. The “A” shares in Berkshire Hathaway, which carry voting rights, cost £111,000.

But there is an alternative – the ConBrio Sanford DeLand UK Buffettology fund. It sounds like a gimmick, but this fund, which unashamedly aims to mimic Mr Buffett’s investment philosophy, buying firms with big brands and pricing power, has delivered the goods over the past three years. It has returned 55pc, almost double the 29pc return of the FTSE All Share.

Managed by Keith Ashworth-Lord, the fund aims to buy shares on the cheap and then hold them for several years.

“The glue that holds the philosophy together is that I want to buy firms whose management behaves like an owner of the business,” Mr Ashworth-Lord said.

Where is he finding value in the UK market, which has delivered stellar performance over the past five years?

Keith R Ashworth-Lord  Director

Sanford Deland tree

Sanford DeLand Asset Management Ltd

9th Floor, 111 Piccadilly


M1 2HY


Tel: 0161 233 8696



Enter – Manufacturing Excellence MX Awards

Enter the Manufacturing Excellence MX Awards

from:  John Green

The Manufacturing Excellence (MX) Awards, is a free of charge business improvement programme that supports and promotes all manufacturers in the UK, including  SMEs, Mid-Caps and OEMs to achieve greater productivity and worldwide competitiveness.

Presentation Power Point

Manufacturing Excellence Awards (MX) Presentation

Apply by Friday 9 May for the 2014 National MX Awards

Open to all sectors and all sizes of business. All information received is strictly confidential. On completion of this online assessment, you will get an instant benchmarking report and be entered for the Awards.

*   There’s a tight deadline for applications – 9 May, which given that Easter’s coming up makes it essential you give this your urgent attention

*    Whilst the competition itself is highly prestigious, alongside this it will give applicants the opportunity to benchmark their business against their sector, and also give them the opportunity to access a significant amount of information on such things as the latest developments in manufacturing, networking opportunities, training etc

*   To complete the application will take quite some time – it’s not a quick process, however the level of detail required does add value to the benchmarking exercise – you can access  for more detail.

NatWest and Lombard are major sponsors of these highly prestigious awards which are run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Extract from the  Institute of Mechanical Engineers Website

Inst Mechanical Engineers

The Manufacturing Excellence (MX) Awards, is a free of charge business improvement programme that supports and promotes all manufacturers in the UK, including  SMEs, Mid-Caps and OEMs to achieve greater productivity and worldwide competitiveness.

Benefits to companies include: 

  • Advice and support to improve performance;
  • Rewarding and celebrating excellence within the manufacturing sector;
  • Sharing best practice and networking opportunities.

What are the Manufacturing Excellence Awards?

The Manufacturing Excellence Awards are a business improvement and awards programme that supports and promotes manufacturers in the UK.

Find out more

Apply to the 2014 Awards

Complete our online business development tool and receive instant strategic advice and feedback
Register now

Benefits to your business

How can the Manufacturing Excellence Awards help your business grow and prosper? Hear from previous Award winners on how entering has benefited them.
Read the testimonials

Partners and Supporters

Find out more about the companies that support the Manufacturing Excellence Awards and how they can help you.
Meet our Partners and Supporters


Ossie Respite Centre – £450k from NatWest

We introduced  Andrea Brighouse, MD of My Life My Choice Ltd  to NatWest who have provided £450,000 of funding.

From: David Sharpe

Pierce Corporate Finance are delighted to have helped Andrea Brighouse develop her business plan and to have provided advice on how to move forward with the Respite Centre project.


From Left to Right:

Gary Swift (NatWest)

David Sharpe (Pierce Corporate Finance)

Andrea Brighouse (MD of My Life My Choice Ltd)

NatWest’s Press Release.

My Life My Choice Respite Centre To Open in Oswaldtwistle with Support from NatWest


A respite and activity centre for children and young adults with disabilities is due to open in Oswaldtwistle.


My Life My Choice Ltd is opening a new privately-run 24-hour care facility on the site of the old Masonic Hall on Albert Street after securing £450,000 of funding from NatWest.


The new centre will cater for up to 40 clients during the day, and create an additional 33 jobs.


Refurbishment works include creating eight bedrooms for overnight accommodation as well as a hydro therapy pool, ball room, and additional play and learning areas.


The support provided at the centre will also be extended to the parents and carers.


Mum Andrea Brighouse is the managing director of My Life My Choice Ltd and has been running similar centre called Blue Tin Roof in Blackburn for more than 11 years.


She said: “My eldest child, whom is now a 26-year-old adult has Neurofibromatosis, learning disabilities and autism. I had previously worked in the respite industry for over 10 years where I gained an understanding of the industry and the challenges faced by carers and centres alike.


Like other parents in my situation I came to a place where I thought I could do it better and provide a level of care I thought was right so I started the first centre.”


My Life My Choice will provide 24-hour respite services, seven days per week, 52 weeks per year.


This will include hourly care, before and after school clubs and outreach services for children and young adults, and support services for parents, guardians and carers. All services provided are flexible, responsive and tailor made to meet each individual’s needs.


Andrea said: “We are on-call 24 hours per day, for those families that need such a high level of provision. Those families can ring us up in the middle of night or in an emergency and we will be there immediately to provide the support or care needed.


We also plan to take clients on activity holidays.


We know there is a need for this type of service in the area and are committed to doing what we can to help.”


The centre is due to open after Easter and Andrea said there is already a waiting list for some services.


Andrea praised the support she was given by NatWest Healthcare Relationship Director Gary Swift. She had been working with another bank and was introduced to Gary by David Sharpe of Pierce Accountants in Blackburn.


David Sharpe and the Pierce Corporate Finance Team helped Andrea develop her business plan and provided expert advice on how to move forward with the project.


Thanks to MEN : Conference No8 gets creative


This gallery contains 4 photos.

Thanks to MEN and Shelina Begum: Thanks to Shelina Begum of the Manchester Evening News for the mention in her article below: Conference No.8 gets creative Companies from the creative and digital sector shared their skills and knowledge with professional … Continue reading

Funding for Business Workshops

Funding for Business Workshops

By:  David Sharpe

As founder members of The Hive Network, we are delighted to announce the second in a free series of ‘Finance for Business’ workshops, in association with Napthens Solicitors and RBS.


Date: 20th February 2014

Venue: Blackburn Youthzone, Jubilee Street, Blackburn, BB1 1EP

Timings: The event will start at 10am and will finish at around 12 noon

Cost: Free of charge

The aim of this workshop is to provide businesses in the area with an understanding of what funding is available in the marketplace and how to access those fund providers.

The audience will hear from a panel of finance providers and advisors, each with their own particular expertise and funding type. Following brief presentations from the guest speakers there will be the opportunity to participate in a Q&A as well as 1-2-1 sessions with the panellists.

Speakers at this event will include:

Who should attend?

This will be of particular interest and benefit to those organisations in need of funding for growth.


To book a place, please contact Clare Kinsey on: or 01254 686207.

Places are limited so please book ASAP to avoid disappointment.

About The Hive

The Hive is a new group of business leaders working together to inspire prosperity across Blackburn and Darwen.

The workshops are being organised by Hive’s Founder members:

David Sharpe of Pierce Chartered Accountants

Jamie Allison of Napthens Solicitors

Mark Gardiner of RBS.

The format, for all the planned events, will comprise a panel of finance providers and advisors, each with their own particular expertise and funding type. We want to make sure that businesses in our immediate area understand what is available in the market place and how to access those fund providers – our aim is part of the philosophy of making Blackburn with Darwen a more prosperous and successful area in which to trade and maintain business growth.

The panel members will represent organisations who provide a blend of different funding options: for example:

  • traditional bank lending
  • asset based lending
  • venture capital funding
  • grant based support.


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