Business Connections

Small Talk: Banks drag their feet over interest-rate swaps scandal

Britain’s banks insist they want to support small and medium-sized enterprises. So why have they been so slow to resolve the multi-billion pound interest-rate swaps mis-selling scandal?

Small Talk: Profits slump for TalkSport owner UTV after fall in advertising

Profits have slumped more than 40% at TalkSport owner UTV because of an advertising drought as there has been no big football tournament this summer.

Small Talk: It’s vital for start-ups that we nurture creative talent

Conflicting interpretations of the figures published by exam boards in recent weeks have prompted much debate over the current state of Britain’s education system.

Small Talk: Zero-hours contracts? Key for growth

Depending on whose figures you use, small and medium-sized enterprises account for between 60 and 70 per cent of jobs in the UK economy, and are behind as much as two-thirds of new job creation.

Small Talk: SME lending data throws up more questions than answers

Britain’s banks are convinced the key to repairing their relationships with customers is to be ever-more transparent about their activities. So it is that they have just published detailed statistics on lending to small and medium-sized enterprises in 120 postcodes around the country, including data on how much cash these SMEs have on deposit in the banks.

Small Talk: Slow progress in overcoming unpopular energy rollovers

One down, five to go. British Gas last week announced it would unilaterally abolish automatic rollover of energy contracts for small business customers in September. So will the rest of the Big Six gas and electricity providers follow its lead?

Small Talk: Eurozone is the best choice for taking first step in exports

It has become fashionable to urge British companies to look beyond the struggling eurozone

Small Talk: SMEs which can't get off the ground are the real headache

As former regulator Sir Andrew Large begins yet another inquiry into whether banks are starving small businesses of credit – in his case, specifically Royal Bank of Scotland – it is worth asking whether we are worrying most about the right people. The small and medium-sized enterprises that believe they have been unfairly turned down for lending may complain this is inhibiting their growth potential, but at least they were able to get off the ground in the first place. The next generation of SMEs may not be so fortunate.

Small Talk: Crowdfunding can flourish but it still needs a watchdog

Raise your glasses to BrewDog, the Scottish brewery company in the middle of a £4m growth capital campaign. It is raising the money from equity investors through a private share sale and looks likely to hit its target with no difficulties at all – £1m came in on the first day of the share issue.

Small Talk: It's time SMEs got a better deal on banks competition

The financial crisis may have sent economic growth into a tailspin, but it has been a major boon for one cottage industry: there is no end in sight to the inquiries and investigations into banking that the crisis has prompted. Still, the latest of these inquiries, an Office of Fair Trading investigation into competition in banking for small and medium-sized enterprises, represents an important opportunity.

Small Talk: Your data may be safer in the clouds, despite the latest security furore

While the furore over the US data surveillance programme Prism raged last week, Microsoft published a little-noticed research note that suggests too many small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK may be missing out because of their anxiety about data privacy and security.

Small Talk: It's a misconception that we're tying ourselves up in red tape

Having been embarrassed by yet another set of disappointing figures on bank lending to small businesses last week, Government ministers were understandably keen to get back on the front foot. So Business Minister Michael Fallon must have been delighted to be able to make a set-piece announcement about a crackdown on all the ghastly red tape preventing small and medium-sized enterprises getting on with the day job.

Small Talk: Rowing back on tax relief cuts for VCTs will lift SMEs

Small businesses' difficulty in accessing bank finance is routinely cited as one of the major obstacles holding back growing companies. No doubt that's true, but the focus on bank debt has overshadowed other funding pressures on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), notably the huge problems encountered by many small companies which are looking for growth capital.

Small Talk: Small firms find justice hard to come by in swaps scandal

Banking analysts often draw parallels between the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal and the continuing controversy over interest rate swap contracts wrongly sold to small and medium-sized enterprises. There are certainly similarities – not least in the avaricious behaviour of banks' sales staff who peddled both products – but a crucial difference in the regulatory response means many SMEs may find it much harder to get redress than PPI victims.

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Bill Gross has the opportunity to demonstrate he still retains some old magic after being handed $500m to manage by George Soros
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This year, more than ever, Britain will be swamped with discounts promising average discounts of 40%
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Questions over the tax regime when Jean-Claude Juncker was prime minister of Luxembourg will not go away
He may survive a right-wing coup, but the new boss of the EC still faces a struggle to shake off a tax scandal
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The Independent's Jamie Dunkley explains how the EU cap on bankers' bonuses works - and what it means for the City
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Peter Diamandis wants to mine asteroids for construction metals, rocket fuel and strategic metals such as platinum
The entrepreneur, author and space enthusiast says the human race has its future on another planet, but for now ‘the only constant is change – and the rate of change is increasing’
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The Barclays Premier League trophy
What took Ofcom so long? It’s been obvious for a while now that something is wrong with the way TV Premier League football rights are sold, says Chris Blackhurst
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Alexandra Tolstoy is now living with Sergei Pugachev, once known as Putin's banker, in London
The Russian oligarch Sergei Pugachev and his English lover Alexandra Tolstoy hit hard financial times when his bank collapsed. Since the High Court froze his assets this year, they have had to live on ‘just’ £10,000 a week, Jim Armitage reports
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Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron
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Video: The Independent's personal finance editor Simon Read offers some advice on ensuring you enjoy Christmas without the financial hangover
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Sunday - Greece
Discussion of further fiscal stimulus ignores the high levels of debt, low growth rates and increasing borrowing costs that make the public finances of many countries unsustainable, writes Satyajit Das
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Blame for the return to recession has fallen on Shinzo Abe’s decision to hike sales tax
Shinzo Abe spoke of ‘three arrows’ of reform but, as Ben Chu reports, his plan to slash the deficit nosedived, with a shock return to recession
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Video: The Independent's deputy business editor Jim Armitage provides a run-down of the day's major news from the City
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