Financial troika runs euro crash tests - Financial Times Financial troika runs euro crash tests - Financial Times

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Financial troika runs euro crash tests - Financial Times

Financial troika runs euro crash tests - Financial Times

May 29, 2012 10:40 pm

Rates relief reform could bring 5000 empty business properties back to life -

More than 5000 empty business properties could be brought back to life as a result of a planned shake-up of rates relief, the local government minister has said.

The Scottish Government is reforming the rates relief that vacant business premises are eligible for.

Ministers believe the changes could bring up to 5500 empty properties back into use, helping to regenerate the country's town centres.

They also say changing the subsidy for empty premises will raise about £18m a year from 2013-14 onwards.

At the moment, commercial properties get 100% rates relief for the first three months that they are empty, with 50% off rates bill after that.

The Scottish Government proposes to change the system so that while businesses will still get 100% rates relief for the first three months that a property is vacant, after this period they will only get a reduction of 10%.

Under the current set-up, providing rates relief for empty business properties would cost £757m over the period 2010 to 2015, with the Scottish Government stating the planned changes would reduce this to £721m.

But the Scottish Council for Development and Industry has already warned the plans could have a "negative economic impact".

Meanwhile, leading commercial estate agency Colliers International claimed the change could "do more damage than good".

Local government minister Derek Mackay said he would continue to listen to the views of others about the proposals, but insisted the current system was "not working for our communities".

Mr Mackay will tell MSPs on Holyrood's Local Government Committee about the reforms tomorrow.

Speaking ahead of that, he said: "The Scottish Government and our enterprise agencies are working tirelessly to ensure Scotland retains its reputation as the most competitive place to do business in the UK - an important part of this is reviewing our business rates to reflect the current economic challenges and opportunities.

"The current system of empty property relief is not working for our communities and we recognise there is a need to incentivise owners of business premises to find occupants - not to keep the shop doors shut.

"Through working with stakeholders across the business community, we plan to introduce new incentives which will revitalise our town centres and potentially bring up to 5,500 vacant business properties back into use."

He added: "In these tough economic conditions, it is important that business rate reliefs maximise opportunities to create sustainable economic growth and allow Scotland to retain its position as the most supportive business environment anywhere in the UK."

Mr Mackay also stressed: "This Government is focused on supporting Scotland's business community.

"We have retained the small business bonus scheme, which has either eliminated or substantially reduced business rates for two out of every five commercial properties in Scotland.

"Even after proposed reform, empty property relief will remain significantly more generous than that offered in England and Wales."

My Business: Developing a formula for frizzy hair - BBC News

My Business: Developing a formula for frizzy hair

What makes an entrepreneur? BBC Brasil's Julia Carneiro and Tom Santorelli hear from Heloisa "Zica" Assis, who developed a hair treatment to manage her own unruly locks and ended up catering to the demands of a large number of Brazilians with frizzy or tightly curled hair.

Heloisa Assis spent 10 years mixing and churning all sorts of different hair creams at home in search of a formula.

She was determined to find a better way to take care of her frizzy strands of hair without having to straighten them, a common practice among black Brazilians who do not want to go for the Afro look.

When she was finally happy with the results, she left her job as a domestic maid and convinced her husband to sell the VW Beetle he used as a taxi. They invested $1,500 (£965; 1,206 euros) to open a small beauty parlour in 1993.

My Business

What does it take to build your own business from scratch?

How does a US expat navigate Russian bureaucracy? Or illiterate Moroccan women learn to sell their own wares? Or a Brazilian designer win over Western celebrities?

BBC World Service reporters speak to entrepreneurs around the world about their inspiration, struggles and successes.

Long queues were soon visible outside the salon, in an old house in a poor neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro. The doors would open at 8am, but women were already queuing three hours earlier.

"We were offering something innovative that didn't exist in the market," says Mrs Assis, known simply as Zica, today a successful 51 year-old businesswoman.

Zica came up with a formula for a treatment, enriched with nutrients and moisturising ingredients such as cocoa and acai extract.

She swings her head and sways her hair to explain what it is all about: the formula changes very frizzy hair - which sometimes naturally forms an "afro" if left untreated - into loose, bouncy locks which tumble downwards, all without the need for hair-straightening products.

Half of Brazil's population is black or mixed race, but the beauty industry was mainly focused on the ones of European descent. Zica and the three partners who joined her found a hungry market.

'Natural beauty'

That was the beginning of Beleza Natural - Portuguese for "natural beauty". Today, the company has 12 shops in Rio, Bahia and Espirito Santo. It started with four employees. Now there are more than 1,400.

It also has a training centre for staff and a factory that makes 250 tonnes of hair products each month. Shampoos, conditioners and creams all come in bottles with pictures of smiling women with the brand's trademark curly hair.

Although the treatment has a strong appeal to people of African descent, Zica does not define her target market by race. Whether black or white, she points out that three-quarters of Brazilians have frizzy or curly hair.

"The market simply didn't see this before me! People with curly hair were forgotten."

Zica comes from a poor family of 13 children and grew up in a favela in Rio. When she was nine years old, she began to work as a maid and cleaning lady to help bring money home.

She remembers growing self-conscious of her hair's volume and fearful that it might cause a bad impression in richer people's houses.

Back then, the only alternative to her Afro look was to straighten her hair with chemical products. As a teenager, she felt obliged to do it.

"I wasn't happy about it, but I kept straightening my hair until I was 21. Then I said - enough. I want to wear my hair naturally."

Zica enrolled in a hairdressing course offered by a church in the favela where she lived. And so her research began.

Today, she has three children and lives in a gated community in an upmarket area in Rio. She is an exception in a country that still counts few black people among their rich.

"We came up from the bottom"

Each month, 80,000 people head to her salons for the treatment. It costs $35 (£22; 28 euros) and there are special packages for families.

Most of her clients are working-class women aged 18 to 45. Zica says her major concern is keeping prices affordable.

"We came up from the bottom, we know what people go through. I could never take care of my hair in a salon. I haven't forgotten this reality."

Her greatest reward, she says, is seeing her clients' self-esteem rocket as they grow prouder of their hair. "Every day I meet people with great stories to tell of the changes they went through," she says.

Although her company found an important niche, the early days were not easy. Zica and her partners had to battle Brazilian bureaucracy and face the mistrust of bankers.

"When you're an entrepreneur you dream a lot and you think people are dreaming with you. And actually that's not how things are. If you go to a bank and ask for a loan, people want proof. For a long time, we had to work on one day to pay on the next."

In 2005, the company won the support of Endeavor, an international NGO that helps promising start-ups develop business plans.

In 2012, their aim is to grow 25% on last year's business. The company has plans to expand further in Brazil - and dreams of going abroad.

"I'm sure we'll still go very far and conquer the world out there," says Zica. "I believe there are many people with frizzy hair waiting to be treated by us."

Living on mobile money - BBC News

Rory Cellan-Jones tries living without money

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my frustrating efforts to use various new mobile money applications on my phone. I promised then to have another go, to give up cash and try to pay by phone alone. So, how did it go? Not very well, I'm afraid.

I started by loading up my phone with a variety of apps which - supposedly - would help me get by without cash or even cards. My main weapons were to be O2 Wallet and Barclays Pingit, two new services which allow you to send and receive money from your phone. But I also installed the Paypal app, and a range of others that allow you to buy a coffee or pay for a taxi from your phone.

Within minutes of starting, I ran into trouble. It was my turn to buy the office tea and coffee round, and the coffee outlet only took cash. No problem - I would get my colleague Anthony to pay and refund him via one of my mobile money pay-by-text services.

With Barclays Pingit playing up (I never got it to work, even after deleting the app and going through the lengthy verification system again) I turned to my O2 wallet. Just two or three passwords later, I had texted a £2.80 money message to Anthony.

Then the fun began.

He spent days - quite literally - trying to make sure this and a couple of other payments from me made their way from his phone into his bank account. Much of that time was spent in increasingly intemperate phone conversations with O2. At one point the company told him their "triage unit" was on the case. Anthony's verdict? "No need for triage - it's terminal!"

I quickly realised that although I wanted to rely solely on my phone, this approach wasn't going to work. I would need to use credit and debit cards as well, plus my Oyster touch-and-go card for travel around London.

By paying for meals via my debit card - which meant I had to spend more than £5 - I did manage to get by without cash for a couple of days.

Then I took a trip to Oxford and had my first failure.

Getting on a bus to the city centre without a travelcard, I found myself obliged to dip into my pocket for some coins to pay the fare. And my bus trip proved a timely example of how useful mobile money could be if it were more widely adopted. On a busy route, every time we stopped dozens of school children and students queued to pay by cash, making our progress very slow.

While neither of my mobile money services proved at all useful over the week, there were two things - taxis and coffee - that proved easy to pay for by phone. The taxi app market is now fiercely competitive and I found Hailo, a service that lets you order a London cab, pretty efficient at delivering a driver to me within five minutes.

I also tried Ubicabs to order minicabs, and this again worked fine - although my driver ended up asking me to navigate to my destination. These services make it very easy to move around without cash or credit cards - if only in the London area - but they have one major downside. You end up racking up big bills without even thinking about it.

The same applies with the Starbucks app, which allows you to load money onto a virtual payment card on your phone, then swipe your phone against a reader to pay for coffee or a sandwich. Because this was the only easy way I found to buy food from my phone, I ended up spending far too much on cappuccinos.

When I ended my experiment, I breathed a sigh of relief - as did my colleague Anthony, who is still trying to extract from his phone the money I owe him. Trying to live off mobile money, which is supposed to make life easier, has been a stressful experience. The inevitable concerns about security are making most of these new services so complicated to use that you have to be slightly deranged even to bother.

That is not to say the whole idea is doomed to failure. We will see further innovation over the coming weeks as payments firms unveil plans to allow visitors to the London Olympics to pay with their phones.

But here's my advice to the companies pushing these services - your "triage units" are in for a busy time.

Money comes in for Rodgers - SkySports

Wigan's Roberto Martinez was being strongly tipped to take over at Liverpool after talks with the club's American owners Fenway Sports Group in Miami last week.

But there was still no word from Martinez as he arrived back in Manchester today following a family holiday in Barbados and Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has issued a deadline of Thursday for an agreement to be reached.

The story took a new twist today with Swansea boss Rodgers, who originally turned down the chance to speak to FSG, appearing firmly back in frame with online bookies Sky Bet. He is now 1/2 to be appointed Reds' manager with Martinez out to 2/1.

It now appears to be definitely a two-horse race with Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp out to 12/1 after being as short as 2/1 early on Monday.

Football trader Joe Petyt explained: "When Martinez was photographed with FSG's John Henry in America he became the strong favourite but even during that time we saw sustained money for Rodgers.

"In the last 24 hours the amount of money we've seen on Rodgers has increased substantially which indicates to us that some people have heard that he's going to take the job."

The perfect addition to your business portfolio - Daily Telegraph

This will give you the chance to pick and choose specific matches for different clients. Inviting them to a variety of high profile encounters throughout the season will mean the chance to really build a relationship with them; both on a personal and professional level. Increasing your chances of sitting down with your clients in more of an informal atmosphere will really give you the opportunity to talk business away from the office.

The package to best suit your business

All businesses are different. Your needs and wants, as well as your clients are likely to be very specific. With that in mind there are a variety of packages you can choose from.

To really give your clients the top experience at Old Trafford and to enable the business discussion to keep flowing throughout the day, you may want to choose the option of an Executive Box. You can enjoy the action from a stunning vantage point within the stadium, while the private atmosphere of your own personal space will be perfect to conclude those all-important deals.

You can also choose from a variety of executive lounge packages in the numerous suites located throughout the stadium. Here you can enjoy a pre-match meal and feast on the atmosphere from one of the best spots in your respective stand within the stadium, followed by post match entertainment.


A corporate hospitality package at Manchester United isn’t just about entertaining your individual clients; there are also huge opportunities to network with any number of other high profile businesses. The informal atmosphere will enable you to socialise with a range of important contacts which could well boost your client portfolio.

Adding a hospitality package from the Manchester United Executive Club to your company portfolio could really be the making of your business.

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