Thursday 31st July

Gov makes 20,000 Start Up Loans

The government’s flagship Start Up Loans fund has delivered its 20,000 bung, ministers announced yesterday....

The government’s flagship Start Up Loans fund has delivered its twenty-thousandth bung, ministers announced yesterday.

The scheme was designed to supplement funding opportunities for start-up businesses with good ideas but no way of securing finance for them.

Loans range from £1,000 to £10,000 and in total the scheme has leant £100m to UK start-ups.

Commenting on the news, business secretary Vince Cable said: "The economic hardship we’ve experienced over the last few years has not stopped the flow of business ideas and people wanting to start up their own companies.

He added: "This British entrepreneurial spirit, backed by our loan scheme, will help create the iconic companies of the future."

The twenty-thousandth loan went to Melissa Mailer-Yates and her business Shakespuss & Co. The business introduces Shakespeare to children in an accessible way. It received £6,000.

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Not enough small firms grabbing export opportunities

Small businesses are missing out on global sales by ignoring overseas customers, despite barriers to reaching consumers falling, says FedEx Express....

Small businesses are missing out on global sales by ignoring overseas customers, despite barriers to reaching consumers falling, says FedEx Express.

Just a quarter of small and medium businesses are internationally active, says a Fedex report, despite a finding that 35 per cent see tapping into new markets as essential to their success in the next 12 months.

Despite evidence showing that businesses trading overseas are more likely to grow than those that do not, 52 per cent of respondents questioned for the report said they needed more help to make the leap.

The government sees export as a cornerstone of UK economic growth and has cut taxes for businesses as well as bolstering support structures for overseas trade.

The result has been the fastest export growth of all EU countries in 2013.

“This survey has picked up on some thought-provoking trends in business behaviour and attitudes," said Trevor Hoyle, vice president, FedEx Express UK & Ireland.

"With three decades of experience in the UK, we've see first-hand how starting to export can have a revitalising impact on a business. Our job at FedEx is to give British businesses global knowledge at the local level in order to seize these opportunities."

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Wednesday 30th July

Twitter reports big loss, but users climbing

Micro-blogging platform Twitter said monthly users have risen 24 per cent in 12 months to 271 million in June as it announced a loss of $145 million (£86 million) for the second quarter....

Micro-blogging platform Twitter said monthly users have risen 24 per cent in 12 months to 271 million in June as it announced a loss of $145 million (£86 million) for the second quarter.

The loss was more than three times bigger than during the same period in 2013, but Twitter’s share price leapt 35 per cent on the results, which have assuaged fears that public interest in the website was waning.

Advertising income increased 129 per cent to $277 million in the second quarter compared with the same three-month period last year. It added 16 million new users in that time, 13 million of which came from outside the US.

Chief executive Dick Costolo said the World Cup was a factor in Twitter’s recent growth in popularity, but that users would not abandon the website now that the competition is over.

"Our strong financial and operating results for the second quarter show the continued momentum of our business," said Mr Costolo in a statement accompanying the figures.

"We remain focused on driving increased user growth and engagement, and by developing new product experiences, like the one we built around the World Cup, we believe we can extend Twitter's appeal to an even broader audience."

Growth in mobile users will also give investors’ confidence. Twitter said 78 per cent of customers access the site through smartphones and tablets.

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SME-dominated industries ‘falling behind’

Parts of the economy dominated by small and medium sized businesses have falling behind others, with slower growth and proportionally smaller contributions to UK GDP....

Parts of the economy dominated by small and medium sized businesses have falling behind others, with slower growth and proportionally smaller contributions to UK GDP.

That’s the main finding from research released today by alternative lender Boost Capital. The contribution to the economy of key sectors including retail, construction and hospitality has slowed faster than others between 2007 and 2013, it said.

At the same time, according to Boost’s figures, lending to SMEs contracted by £2.6 billion, or six per cent of the total. It backs up government data showing that smaller firms are more likely to be rejected for basic finance facilities such as overdrafts and loans.

Marc Glazer, CEO of Boost Capital, said: “The real contribution and value to the nation’s economy from SMEs should never be understated. Big sectors dominated by SMEs like hospitality and construction have shown comparatively lower growth than other sectors.

“If funding for these businesses continues to be constrained, their growth and ultimate contribution to Britain’s bottom line may fall far below its potential. From what we have seen on the ground SMEs are still not being given the financial footpaths to grow.”

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Tuesday 29th July

UK falling behind on 4G

The UK is falling behind countries like the US and South Korea in its adoption of 4G-enabled handsets, according to new figures....

The UK is falling behind countries like the US and South Korea in its adoption of 4G-enabled handsets, according to new figures.

Data based on a study of mobile analytics in 242 countries by Netbiscuits came as London’s Mayor Boris Johnson pledged that London would have access to 5G connectivity by 2020.

According to the figures, just 33 per cent of mobiles in the UK support 4G compared with 67 per cent in the US.

Globally, Apple’s 4G-enabled iPhone 5 and 5s are the most popular new handsets, but in the UK they are yet to overtake the older 3G-reliant iPhone 4 series.

Mr Johnson’s pledge came as part of his infrastructure plan for London leading up to 2050, which sets out infrastructural and technical requirements for the city over the next four decades.

“London is earning a reputation for being the tech capital of Europe and that is why we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access the very best digital connectivity,” he said.

“Londoners increasingly regard broadband as another utility and I am expecting a wide variety of providers will want to work with me to make this aspiration a reality.”

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Numbers of freelancers ‘set to soar’

In future, people will have their own “brands” and sell their skills to organisations on a case-by-case basis, according to a report looking at the future of work by accountants PwC....

In future, people will have their own “brands” and sell their skills to organisations on a case-by-case basis, according to a report looking at the future of work in 2022 by accountants PwC.

It’s one of a handful of findings implying that traditional office environments could become a thing of the past, while the number of people working as freelancers will grow.

Better internet access and smartphones have already caused a big increase in people working for themselves. According to official data, 183,000 people became self-employed in the first quarter of 2014 alone.

In other findings from the PwC report, which is based on conversations with 10,000 workers and 500 HR professionals globally, just 14 per cent of people want to work in a “traditional office environment” in future.

One in five said they would prefer to work in a virtual organisation, logging on from home or shared workspaces instead of at an office. Meanwhile, a quarter said traditional employment structures won’t exist in future.

Jon Andrews, UK HR consulting leader at PwC, said: “It’s clear from our research that traditional nine to five office working could soon become resigned to history for many workers.

“People feel strongly that they no longer want to work within the constraints of the typical office environment and advances in technology mean that workers no longer have to be shackled to their desks.”

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Anger at HMRC debt recovery proposals

A prominent business lobby says the government should rethink proposals allowing HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to recover debts directly from the bank accounts of freelancers and small businesses....

A prominent business lobby says the government should rethink proposals allowing HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to recover debts directly from the bank accounts of freelancers and small businesses.

Plans, unveiled at the Budget in March, are meant to penalise people who can afford to pay tax bills but refuse or forget to do so.

They would allow inspectors to dip into bank accounts to retrieve debts if there were sufficient funds to pay.

But the Forum for Private Business (FPB) says decisions to take money should take into account important factors in the business cycle, such as 12-month debts and unexpected costs such as stock or investment opportunities.

It also says the £5,000 safety net floated by the government is too low. HMRC inspectors would not be allowed to take funds from companies with bank balances below this level.

Alexander Jackman, head of policy at the FPB, said: “Our members are unequivocal in their condemnation of tax avoidance and the tax evasion practices that have received significant coverage in the media, in particular the practices of large corporates.

“However, many of our members already feel that they are unfairly targeted by HMRC and these proposals do little to dispel this commonly held belief.

He added: “The smaller scope of their operations means many small business owners feel much more vulnerable to investigations than larger firms with more complex tax arrangements.”

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Monday 28th July

Two-thirds of freelancers ‘have no pension’

Two in three freelancers are sitting on a "pensions time bomb" by failing to provide financially for their retirement, new figures suggest....

Two in three freelancers are sitting on a "pensions time bomb" by failing to provide financially for their retirement, new figures suggest.

Research by Crunch Accounting shows two-thirds have no pension and less than half putting in place any preparations for retirement.

Darren Fell, managing director of Crunch, said: “with the economy picking up, I would advise anyone working for themselves to think of the future and invest in their retirement.”

The survey of 280 freelancers also revealed that one in four had yet to give any thought to retirement at all, while just 15 per cent were confident they were saving the right amount.

According to government figures, one-person businesses make up around 15 per cent of the workforce. An extra 750,000 people have become self-employed since the start of the credit crunch.

Crunch Accounting’s survey involved freelance IT consultants, writers and designers among other professions.

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Friday 25th July

UK economy goes from bust to boom

UK economic growth hit 0.8 per cent between April and June after registering the same growth rate during the first quarter of the year, government number-crunchers have confirmed....

UK economic growth hit 0.8 per cent between April and June after registering the same growth rate during the first quarter of the year, government number-crunchers have confirmed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the economy swelled by 3.1 per cent year-on-year, meaning that is now officially bigger than when the recession began in 2009.

The economy is currently 0.2 per cent bigger than its previous peak before the global economic pinch set in, said ONS.

"Thanks to the hard work of the British people, today we reach a major milestone in our long-term economic plan," said chancellor George Osborne.

But while the UK is currently storming ahead, some economists pointing out that other European countries hit their pre-recession peaks much sooner.

Germany returned to its pre-recession level in 2010, while France followed a year later in 2011. The US also achieved the feat in 2011, three years ahead of the UK.

"Any celebrations will of course also be marred by the fact that the milestone reminds us that it has taken some six years for the country to merely regain the economic might it had before the financial crisis struck,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

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Firms should prepare for ‘best time to recruit’

The upcoming autumn months are when the highest proportion of people look for jobs, meaning recruiters could find richer pickings at this time of year, according to figures by Randstad Technologies....

The upcoming autumn months are when the highest proportion of people look for jobs, meaning recruiters could find richer pickings at this time of year, according to figures by Randstad Technologies.

For every job advertised there or 3.9 jobseekers during August, the highest ratio in any month during the year. It compares with just 2.9 jobseekers per position in January.

The figures indicate that the autumn is a good time for employers to step up recruitment drives, particularly with the annual influx of graduates into the jobs market.

Conversely, the figures imply that people looking for work might have the best chance at the beginning of each year, when they will have the lowest level of competition.

Mike Beresford, managing director of Randstad Technologies, said: “If you want the best odds on scooping up high-flyers, August is the month to hire. These figures show the competition for the best talent is less intense.

“You might not be able to count on the sun during a typical British August but if you are in the IT and technology industries, you can count on having to fight that little bit less hard for every candidate you want to hire.”

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