Last gasp BES schemes flood on to the market: Budget worries have hastened a final rush of offers. Caroline Merrell reports

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The Independent Online
THE end-of-year deadline for Business Expansion Schemes, and fears that the Chancellor may bring the cut-off date forward in next week's Budget, produced a flood of new schemes in the past seven days.

There are about 80 schemes on offer at the moment. Three specialist, more risky, schemes that do not carry guaranteed exit prices are Pavilions of Splendour, sponsored by the English Trust Company, and two that invest in the film industry.

Bloomsbury Films aims to produce up to three low-budget films a year and is planning to have the first released by May.

The company is chaired by Bruce Sharman, the film producer who has worked on Kenneth Branagh's Henry V, The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars. Victor Bateman, a film sales agent who distributed A Passage to India, The Last Emperor and Staggered is also a director.

Chris Parkinson, solicitor for the BES, said: 'The management of Bloomsbury has quite a lot of experience of all aspects of the film-making process.' The minimum investment is pounds 500, and the company aims to raise a total of pounds 750,000 from investors.

Carol Gould Productions also aims to raise pounds 750,000, to produce five film, television and stage projects over the five-year life of the scheme. Ms Gould has worked on more than 100 television productions, including Tales of the Unexpected.

Ms Gould said: 'We have raised pounds 32,000 already, the BES is terrific for the film industry and it is unfortunate the Government is ending it on 31 December.'

One of the projects the production company is working on is a full-length feature film called A Twig from a Cherry Orchard, scripted by Rabbi David Goldberg. The screenplay has been co-edited by Ms Gould and Janet Suzman.

The company is also planning to produce two drama series for television, a stage musical and a television documentary series.

Pavilions of Splendour wants to raise pounds 250,000 for an estate agent service that will deal in unusual properties. The service will sell property nationally and internationally, residential and monumental.

Pavilions of Splendour will deal in any property listed Grade I or II. The minimum investment is pounds 1,000.

Other BES schemes on offer include Bessa Springboard, sponsored by Close Brothers. The assured tenancy scheme has a guaranteed exit price of 120p for every pounds 1 invested, and the return for higher-rate taxpayers is 14 per cent.

Ridings III, sponsored by Capital for Companies, offers a guaranteed exit price of 120p. Investors are guaranteed 50 per cent of the increase in capital after five years.

Nationwide Building Society has made a further pounds 30m available to investors in the Nationwide Premier Business Expansion Scheme.

The scheme is an assured tenancy scheme, which offers investors two options of getting a return.

The first is a guaranteed exit of 121p, the second option guarantees a return of 60p for every pounds 1 invested, plus a further capital gain that will be linked to any rise in the FT-SE 100 index.

Johnson Fry aims to raise pounds 5m for Nottingham Trent University accommodation. The scheme offers a guaranteed exit of 121p with a minimum investment of pounds 3,000.

Nick Percival, director of BESt Investment, said: 'Investors should make sure they get proper advice on the wealth of schemes available.'

Potential investors in Matrix Securities South Quay Trust should have received their money back this week. Last week, Matrix gave up its fight to get tax relief confirmed for the enterprise zone trust, after its challenge to the Inland Revenue was turned down in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Matrix had cheques from investors totalling around pounds 40m. Up to a further pounds 50m was being held by financial advisers of behalf of their clients, who were awaiting the result of the court case.

(Photograph omitted)

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