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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Eurozone crisis live: European project ‘in disrepute’ as public lose faith

Category : Business

Pew Research Centre claims that the EU is the new ‘Sick Man of Europe’, with public support for the European Union down sharply as the debt crisis grinds on

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Be flexible – and boost your efficiency

Category : Business

The work-life balance of small business owners is out of kilter, research shows. Time to tweak how your SME operates

Against the backdrop of a tough economic climate, many small business owners are feeling the strain and working harder than ever. We conducted some research to find out the real pressures that Britain’s small businesses are currently facing. Turns out, it’s pretty tough out there.

The results revealed that nearly half of small business workers now forgo a work-life balance. Business admin in particular is eating up too much time, with many forced to get jobs done outside of working hours. Worse still, almost a third feel stressed and under pressure and one in five admit that, as a result, customer service, as well as their personal relationships, are suffering.

Small businesses may be the engine of the economy but there’s no doubt it’s an extremely challenging time to own, run or work in a small and growing organisation. I believe that big businesses have a responsibility to lend better support by listening to the challenges, understanding the issues and offering practical services to give small businesses back some of that valuable time. No one has all of the answers – but there are some simple things your small business can do to regain a sense of balance.

Adopt a remote working culture

The adoption of mobile and the rise of connected devices mean we can stay connected, anytime and anywhere. Consumer devices are infiltrating the four walls of the workplace and, as a result, traditional “business” devices are no longer necessarily seen as an attractive option – employees want one device, one point of contact, and the latest technology.

At O2, we launched a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programme in December 2011, which is now used by almost 2,000 employees – 60% of our Slough HQ workforce. This number continues to grow.

Employees are empowered by the ability to access the network via their personal devices. This is helping to improve their productivity, but most importantly work-life balance, by allowing them to shape their own ways of working on the devices they like best. Plus, it saves us money as a business.

The advantages of BYOD initiatives can be hugely favourable for businesses as employees feel supported to work in the way that fits their work style best, which can result in improved business agility, cost savings and enhanced productivity. If we can do it as a big business, think what a difference it’ll make to a small growing company – removing the pressure of managing multiple devices and giving staff some flexibility.

If you are considering implementing a BYOD policy, security is a key area to be clear on, so make sure that employees have passwords on their devices. You could also put in place software so that you can remotely wipe anything that is business-related should you need to protect it.

Enlist specialist help

Outsourcing to specialist businesses for help with web design, accounting or recruiting new staff means you can spend more time focusing on the critical needs of your business and what it requires to grow.

To make sure you get the right fit first time, it’s important to consider working with other companies of a like-minded culture. When deciding which operations you should outsource, think about the areas that are core to your business and those that aren’t.

Another option is to outsource complicated paperwork and contracts, such as health and safety management and employment law, to a specialist HR company. The benefit of this is not only more time, but also peace of mind that you have somewhere to seek advice if you need it.

Ultimately, outsourcing is a great way to reclaim some time, providing you select partners in the right way.

Flexible working practices will only become more prevalent as 2013 progresses as more employees use their own devices for work, so it’s worthwhile putting in place systems to help staff get better connected now. Alongside bringing in specialist help, you will be well on your way towards recovering time to concentrate on what you do best: running your business.

Paul Lawton is head of the small business division at O2

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Standard Chartered leads FTSE 100 lower as US investor cautions on bank’s loan book

Category : Business

Leading index dips after seven days of gains, after disappointing Chinese data and banking sector weakness

Standard Chartered is leading the way lower as the market slips back after seven days of gains.

The bank is down 70p at £15.13, a decline of more than 4%, following a report that investment group Muddy Waters was shorting its shares. According to Bloomberg, the group’s Carson Block said he was concerned about the bank’s deteriorating loan quality, and said its loan book could come under stress when the Chinese economy slows down. He reportedly said at a conference in Las Vegas on Friday:

We think the market misunderstands the amount of risk that’s presently in the book.

He pointed to a $1bn loan to Samin Tan, the chairman of Bumi, the coal company at the centre of a dispute between co-founders Nathaniel Rothschild and Indonesia’s Bakrie family.

Meanwhile HSBC is 11.4p lower at 733.4p after Investec moved from buy to reduce. Analyst Ian Gordon said:

We are perfectly comfortable with HSBC’s first quarter 2013 financials – sharply lower impairments and an improving cost performance broadly offsetting weak revenues – but after the stock’s recent outperformance we see limited further upside.

Overall the FTSE 100 is down 21.65 points at 6603.33, not helped by disappointing Chinese industrial production figures. Investors have turned a little more cautious following recent market performances, including a five and a half year high on the FTSE 100.

Miners are mixed after the Chinese data, with Anglo American down 29.5p at 1561.5p and Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation 4.7p lower at 289.2p.

But Lonmin has been lifted 15.4p to 294.2p after the platinum miner reported a better than expected first half profit of $54m, up from $18m and lifted its production guidance. The group has been hit by a wave of unrest and violence in South Africa, and warned that wage talks ahead presented a significant challenge.

Elsewhere GlaxoSmithKline has climbed 19p to £16.89 following news late on Friday that US regulators had approved Breo, a treatment for chronic pulmonary disease made in partnership with American group Theravance.

G4S has added 5.1p to 252.8p as bargain hunters emerged after the company’s recent declines. The company has won a couple of UK government contracts as it tries to shed the legacy of its chaotic London Olympic performance.

Eurozone crisis live: Finance ministers gather as tensions rise in Spain

Category : Business

Eurogroup will decide today whether to approve aid tranches for Greece and Cyprus

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Eye-catching PR for your small business needn’t be costly

Category : Business

Startups can do the job of raising awareness of their business in-house. All they need to do is put in a bit of time and creativity

PR can be a valuable tool in promoting your business. However, you must put a great deal of thought into the way you approach PR: it is really important, before plunging into a spate of activity and promotion, that you have an interesting story to tell.

Coverage in the press will raise awareness of your business. To a consumer, reading an article about your business in a well-regarded publication can indicate endorsement.

To budding entrepreneurs who have just established their startup, all minor achievements or successes are likely to equate to pivotal milestones. Whenever a milestone is reached, it is tempting to shout each success from the rooftops and send press releases out to every publication at every opportunity in a somewhat scattergun approach.

This can be an error, though. I would advise that you sit down and think about whether your achievements are significant and valuable enough to publicise. Given that there are thousands of business stories every day, ranging from large corporates launching new products to exciting young entrepreneurs that have caused a stir, a press release regarding the launch of your website is unlikely to capture the attention of a journalist.

So, how do you make your milestones newsworthy? How do you identify that angle that will capture people’s attention? You think outside the box. Think about what is trending in the press and how you can link your business to that angle.

Experiential marketing agency Cult Events, one of the Start-Up Loan Company’s recipients, have spent a great deal of time thinking about what angle will capture journalists’ attention. Hugo and Ian, the founders behind Cult, have decided to build memorable niche events, theming them around a concept relevant to current trends or brand campaigns. To help publicise Cult Events they have conceptualised Pisco Fuego, a pop-up Latin American dining experience which takes the pop-up trend back to its “blink and you’ll miss it” origins. These days, there are pop-ups that last for years, some that have developed into pop-up franchises and still more seem to scrawl the word pop-up on a chalkboard outside their restaurant in fear of missing out. Pisco Fuego will pop up for a few days at a time in various London locations, leaving people wanting to know and find out more. This story is far more likely to be picked up by journalists over an article about what Cult Events is, outlining the fact they are hosting an event.

Once you have the angle, then you can start utilising PR techniques. As a startup you are unlikely to have the required budget to allocate a substantial sum to PR, but with limited experience you may be tempted to approach a PR firm. In my experience, entering into lengthy retainers with PR firms isn’t necessarily the best option. There is no guarantee they will get you in the press. I learned the costly way when I established Hamilton Bradshaw that you can hire the best PR firm, but the lack of a decent story will result in you not making the papers.

If you are prepared to work hard, PR can be free. Undertake research on the internet. There are numerous free resources out there that provide advice on how best to devise a strategic PR campaign. Use all the contacts that you have in the industry. Work hard on producing concise and interesting press releases. Make direct contact with journalists. Partner with carefully selected complementary businesses. Cult Events has assisted at events at cost price when it knows that there will be press exposure at these events. One good media placement can lead to increased sales or growth. The PR around Cult Event’s Pisco Fuego has resulted in an increase in traffic to its website and 10% of these visitors have converted into ticket sales through its Facebook page. This is a great example as to how a well thought-out, thorough PR campaign can be cheap yet effective.

James Caan is chairman of the Start-Up Loans Company

Each fortnight James will be tackling a different business issue; keep up to date by visiting the network and signing up to our weekly newsletter. We’d welcome your suggestions for future topics and questions for James regarding your own business. Please share them in the comments thread below

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Betfair lifts forecasts to help fend off unwanted CVC bid

Category : Business

Betting group says full year revenues and earnings beat expectations while cost savings rise

Online gaming group Betfair has issued an upbeat trading statement in an attempt to fend off an unwanted £920m bid from private equity group CVC Capital Partners.

Its shares added 16.5p to 861.5p. This is still below the 880p on offer from CVC, although some nonetheless believe the price will have to be raised to win the day.

Betfair said full year estimated earnings were likely to come in at around £73m, at the top end of its previous forecasts. Revenues had reached around £387m while it had £138m of cash on the balance sheet. It reported record new UK customers, and cut 500 staff as part of a restructuring.

Cost savings have been raised from £20m to £30m. But there was no mention of any cash return to investors, which some had been expecting.

Chief executive Breon Corcoran said the company’s new management team had successfully completed the shake-up ahead of schedule, and its new sportsbook was doing well in combination with its existing exchange business. Having bought Blue Square it is planning further targeted acquisitions. In a buy note Simon French at Panmure Gordon said:

The key thrust on strategy is that early indications are that the exchange and sportsbook products are more complimentary than originally envisaged and that “Exchange plus Sportsbook” can deliver a sustainable competitive advantage.

Some investors may be disappointed there is no commitment to return cash to shareholders but the group is looking to accelerate growth through international opportunities and balance sheet flexibility. [We] reiterate our buy recommendation and 1000p target price.

Nick Batram at Peel Hunt kept his hold recommendation but also welcomed the update:

As an initial defence, beating expectations and raising cost savings shouldn’t really surprise anyone, but it is nonetheless a good start for Betfair’s management.

There are three key positives from today’s announcement that suggest to us that CVC will have to significantly up its bid if it wants to secure Betfair. Firstly, while it is early days, the increased focus on the UK appears to be delivering strong customer acquisition numbers. Secondly, what might have been a back-foot defence now firmly looks like a business being positioned on the front foot. Finally, we are glad to see that returning cash to shareholders is not an option at this stage. In a rapidly evolving market and with the strategic opportunities open to Betfair, we believe the cash is better off being deployed in growing the company.

Eurozone crisis live: Australia cuts interest rates to record low

Category : Business

Central bank easing continues as Reserve Bank of Australia cuts borrowing costs overnight, following European Central Bank’s move last Thursday

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Starting a food business: Q&A roundup

Category : Business

Last week a panel of experts answered your questions on starting up in the food industry. Here are the highlights

Monique Borst is a food business development expert

How can you check if your food business idea is viable?: In my experience, people often mistake their aptitude for cooking or passion for food as a shoo-in for business success. Rather than write a full business plan, one quick and easy way to determine whether your food business idea is potentially viable is to run through this checklist:

1. Do I have a market for it?

2. Do I know how to reach the people who might want this?

3. Do I have the resources, skills and time to do this?

4. Is this something people will pay for?

5. How sustainable is this business?

6. Is the business marketable?

Paul Bray is an associate director at Smith & Williamson

Be sensible when financing your food business: The key message has to be not to over-stretch yourself in the early periods. Start small and grow at a sensible pace, otherwise you will be running around chasing your tail – get a sound start underway and then progress in time, rather than rush.

Jean Edwards is the managing director at Deli Farm Charcuterie

Farmers’ markets are a good way to test your product when starting up: When I started just over seven years ago my only sales were through a regular weekly farmers’ market; it was a brilliant way of getting to market and meeting people, getting feedback and so on. By the end of our first summer I was too busy to attend the market on a regular basis, but would never look back on the contacts that I made from there.

What sort of environmental health regulations arise when starting a food business from home? A lot depends on what type of business you are thinking of starting and where you see your customer base. All food premises have to be passed by environmental health, so I would suggest you have a preliminary meeting with your local environmental health officer (EHO), explain exactly what you are intending to do and they will advise you. Remember your EHO is a source of free information – use them as a resource and not the enemy!

Miranda Ballard is the co-founder at Muddy Boots, a beef burger company

What to think about in terms of location: You’ll know where you should be by doing research into the market and your demographic. Go where your customers are so that you’re surrounded by them and you can start selling to them. Remember to be where you want to be too – no point living where you’re not happy. There’s no point taking all the risks and stresses of having your own business if you’re not happy with where you’re living. What’s best for the business is also what’s best for you – there’s more chance the company will survive if you’re happy.

You can still be a British brand with ingredients sourced elsewhere: We’re a British food brand, from a marketing and content perspective. Some of our ingredients (tomato puree, garlic, black pepper) are imported. We’ve seen all those prices go up in the past 18 months because of transport, labour and production. The idea that all food produced in Britain will stay in Britain doesn’t acknowledge the foods that can’t be grown or produced here – our taste buds will have to revert after these glory years!

Think carefully about how you use social media: In the past month, I’ve been really thinking about social media for small businesses. I think there’s a danger that the massive national or global platform that it brilliantly provides can actually sometimes be too wide a marketing spread for the small business. What I mean is, we all know that we’re meant to find our demographic and then target them, to the point of excluding everyone else. I worry that small businesses can get distracted with the cross-demographic appeal of social media. It’s important to remember you have to work hard to find and appeal to your own demographic – a like or a retweet from someone in your demographic is much, much more valuable than 100 from those outside it.

Roopa Rawal is the co-founder at Devnaa, a luxury Indian-inspired confectionery company

Know your brand: Be really passionate about your products and do everything you can to build a good reputation for your brand – interact with consumers as much as possible. Customer care is really important especially with food, as even though ingredients are all written down people will want to be assured of the taste, quality of ingredients, allergy information and so on. The best part is that if they like it they will definitely go out and tell everybody they know about it.

Quality of food is paramount at the moment: I think more so than with healthy eating, consumers are becoming more aware of the quality of what they eat and drink. As people have become more health conscious they’ve also realised that the quality of what they consume plays just as big a part in maintaining their health – even if they want a treat.

Philippa Taylor works at Grand Union PR, a food PR company

Think about how you portray yourself online: Make sure that you have a domain name which is unique to you for a hosted website which you can customise yourself, and that your website is set-up to either sell online, act as a brochure or both. Drive traffic to your site by regularly updating it with seasonal and limited edition products, newsletters, competitions, recipes and testimonials and so on. Link all your promotion together on the social media channels you use and push customers towards your website. Set up Google Analytics so that you can see what works and what doesn’t.

Offline, think about taking information and images from your website and using them in leaflets at markets, on pop-up banners at events, and as press releases for journalists.

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May Day protests and Greek strikes – Eurozone crisis live

Category : Business

With unemployment at record highs and the eurozone in recession, Europe’s annual May Day holiday will be marked with a strike in Greece, and rallies in major cities

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BT wants a broadband bounce from sport, but may have scored an own goal

Category : Business

The complex relationship between BT and BSkyB rests on gaining new customers for the former, rather than advertising

BT and BSkyB are at loggerheads. BSkyB is refusing to allow BT to advertise its new sports channels on Sky Sports, and BT has complained to Ofcom. Now leaving aside the fact that BT can (and does) advertise on any of BSkyB’s other channels, and that BSkyB and BT have both previously declined advertising from direct competitors – so there is plenty of precedent for BSkyB’s position – this dispute really is a storm in a teacup. What lies behind it, however, really couldn’t be more serious and the key questions are all for BT.

BT has spent upwards of £1bn on sports rights – mainly 38 Premier League games a year, top-flight rugby and WTA tennis. When you throw in production and other costs some analysts’ estimates put the total bill at nearly £450m annually. Sky has between five and six million sports subscribers and recent history with Setanta and latterly ESPN suggests that maybe a million of them will pay extra for the additional content BT will offer. Of course in addition to recruiting Sky customers BT will hope to attract new subscribers too, but even if it doubles that number to two million, simple arithmetic suggests it would have to charge them close to £30 per month just to cover costs.

Since no one seriously expects anyone to pay that much just for BT’s sports channels – which are still no real match and certainly no substitute for Sky’s – some analysts expect BT to lose in excess of £200m a year on them.

The only way of making sense of this from a BT investor’s point of view is to see it not as a loss but as an investment in improving the position of BT’s core business – broadband, and especially high-speed broadband. BT has been losing broadband market share to BSkyB – which from a standing start has gone to second in the market behind BT, the legacy operator, in just eight years.

The sharp end of that battle is the 2.5 million Sky TV customers who currently take their broadband from BT. Were BT to lose them, or even many of them – and on today’s trends that could happen – the loss of revenue (line rentals and broadband fees) could top £700m a year. Which is why BT really wants to package up its sports offering with its broadband services. In other words, for BT this is not about sport or even pay-TV, it is about broadband.

Which brings us back to the current spat over advertising. After Ofcom’s pay-TV review, BSkyB faced being compelled to wholesale its premium sports channels to BT at regulated prices. But with no obligation running the other way – on BT to wholesale to BSkyB – BT would then have been in the enviable position of promoting its YouView platform service as the only place to get all Premier League football. And that was the position last year when BT spent its £730m on football rights. But the Competition Appeals Tribunal decision to upend the Ofcom ruling means there is no obligation on BSkyB to wholesale its channels to BT at all.

BSkyB is now saying it will wholesale its premium sports channels to BT – allowing BT to sell them on to its customers – but only if BT will allow BSkyB the same arrangement with its sports channels. If such an arrangement was agreed, BSkyB would almost certainly drop its objection to BT running adverts on Sky Sports as the rivals would in effect be commercial partners.

But the problem for BT is that if BSkyB retails BT Sports as part of its offer to its customers, the telecoms company gets the money but not the customers – they belong to Sky. And no customer data means no capacity to try to sell them broadband packages. Which defeats the strategic point of spending £1bn on sports rights. Which could lead investors to wonder what else BT might have done with all that cash.