Tag Archives: small

Microsoft says small number of its computers hacked

00-024SEATTLE: Microsoft Corp said on Friday a small number of its computers, including some in its Mac software business unit, were infected with malware, but there was no evidence of customer data being affected and it is continuing its investigation.

The world’s largest software company said the security intrusion was “similar” to recent ones reported by Apple Inc and Facebook Inc.

The incident, reported on one of the company’s public blogs happened “recently”, but Microsoft said it chose not to make any statement publicly while it gathered information about the attack.

“This type of cyberattack is no surprise to Microsoft and other companies that must grapple with determined and persistent adversaries,” said Matt Thomlinson, general manager of Trustworthy Computing Security at Microsoft, in the company’s blog post.

Over the past week or so, both Apple and Facebook said computers used by employees were attacked after visiting a software developer website infected with malicious software.

The attacks come at a time of broader concern about computer security.

Newspaper websites, including those of The New York Times , The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, have  been infiltrated recently. Earlier this month US President Barack Obama issued an executive order seeking better protection of the country’s critical infrastructure from cyber attacks.

Copyright Reuters, 2013

Small bars laws meet no objection

Updated February 20, 2013 13:55:21

Residents and businesses will be stripped of rights to object to liquor licences for small venues under legislation passed by the South Australian Parliament.

The Government is keen to make it easier for entrepreneurs to set up small city bars for up to 120 patrons.

It said small venues would help increase the vibrancy of the CBD and boost the use and atmosphere of laneways.

Ian Horne of the Hotels Association is pleased the laws have passed.

“We think they’re an absolutely appropriate vehicle to enliven some of those little laneways,” he said.

The Liquor and Gambling Commissioner will rule on applications.

But Planning Minister John Rau thinks city residents are unlikely to object to the opening of more small bars.

He said they would be confined to commercial or mixed-use areas, so were unlikely to have any residents near them.

“If an adjoining business or whatever decides that they have a concern they can tell the commissioner about that concern, in fact they’ll be invited to,” he said.

“If the commissioner thinks there’s some validity to that concern, that will become a condition of the granting of the licence.”

Mr Rau said there were many exciting possibilities under the changes.

“It won’t just be bars in the city that take up the option of a small venue licence, it could be restaurants, art galleries, live music venues and other new and interesting spaces in the city,” he said.

“It will also mean more people coming to enjoy the city and the flow-on will help other city businesses. It will also be a boon for hospitality industry jobs.”

Liberal leader Steven Marshall said the Opposition was happy to support the changes without amendment.

“We basically went through concerns that were raised in the wider community, we discussed those with the Government, the Government has made a series of assurances and we’ll see how we go,” he said.

“Other cities around Australia did this sort of a decade ago, South Australia’s been well behind the eight-ball, so we’re glad the Government has come to the party on this one and made sure that this legislation’s gone through.”

Mr Marshall said his party was willing to consider expanding the laws to cover the suburbs and regional areas.

“We need to see how they operate at the moment, take a look at what are the implications, but we certainly would be open to it,” he said.

Mr Horne said the CBD needed to be the focus for now, to determine the success of the changes.

A residents’ group is worried there could be little or no consultation.

Julie Jordan from the South City West Residents Association said the Government recently introduced new zones and the City Council had plans to do the same.

“[With] residential zones, we now have a south-west policy area and a south-central policy area and a city living zone, what do each of those mean?” she said.

She said the Commissioner’s process must include the chance for strong community input.

Just for the record – under #smallbarssa residents/councils/police still DO have a say – it’s anti-competitive ‘needs test’ gone

Greens’ Tammy Franks on Twitter
Topics: hospitality, industry, business-economics-and-finance, state-parliament, states-and-territories, parliament, government-and-politics, adelaide-5000, sa, australia

First posted February 20, 2013 08:09:46

Small business expresses doubts about extra flexibility

Small businesses are concerned about moves to increase flexibility provisions in the Fair Work Act, but some experts say the changes do not go anywhere near far enough.

The right to ask for flexible hours or other working arrangements currently only applies to some parents as one of the Federal Government’s 10 national employment standards.

Now the Government is planning to specifically include that right in the Fair Work Act and significantly broaden its scope.

It wants all workers who have care responsibilities, those over 55, workers with a disability, or anyone who is experiencing domestic violence to also be able to ask for more flexibility from their employers.

Unions and the Greens also want those workers to be able to appeal if their request is knocked back, and on that count they have some support.

“Laws need to be enforced if they are to be effective,” argued Professor Barbara Pocock, the director of the Centre for Work and Life at the University of South Australia.

She says it is important to increase the eligibility and to give employers more information about when it is and is not reasonable to say no, but that alone is not enough.

“Why would we expect a law about care to have no effective enforcement, unlike getting underpaid? You can go to the Fair Work Act; you could follow that up; you can get some redress,” she said.

“These flexibility rights are critically important to a lot of workers now, and they need to have the same first class enforcement machinery as any other aspect of labour law.”

The Government is publicly targeting the protections at working women, but Professor Pocock says male employees should not be forgotten.

“The research shows that it is men, and men and women in male dominated workplaces, who are more likely to want flexibility but not feel confident about asking, not get what they need,” she explained.

“We need active fathers and male carers just as much as we need women in the labour market and women getting flexibility they need.”

After a difficult start to the year, the Government is hoping that switching the focus to the workplace will put the Opposition under some pressure.

So far the Coalition has responded cautiously, saying it supports added flexibility but needs to see much more detail.

The Government’s motivation is clear to Peter Strong from the Council of Small Business.

“I think the Government is looking to wedge the Opposition around workplace relations, and I’ll leave the politicians to do that,” he said.

The council is finalising its election wish list this week, with its own industrial award the top priority.

“At the moment the awards are based around the type of industry you’re in,” he said.

“What we’re saying is this particular award would be based on the size of the business. So if you’ve got five employees, you need a very simple award that everybody can look at and understand.

“And in country towns in particular it’s so important because all the – most of the – businesses in a country town are small so people would know that the wage rate is the same no matter where you go and that way the employers can compete for the best workers.”

The Government is also expected to give more protection to workers subject to roster and shift changes at very late notice, but has provided little detail on that plan.

Peter Strong says on all counts small businesses already give their employees flexibility and they do not need further regulation.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, economic-trends, work, federal-government, australia

Small shop closures are ‘progress’

Sir Terry Leahy Sir Terry Leahy was instrumental in the rise of Tesco to become Britain’s biggest retailer The former boss of Tesco has described the rise of supermarkets and closure of small shops as “part of progress”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Desert Island Discs, Sir Terry Leahy also called some High Streets “medieval”, saying the way people lived their lives had changed.

Sir Terry said seeing boarded up local shops was sad, but this happened because consumers were choosing to shop at the bigger supermarkets.

The benefits of out-of-town stores outweighed the downsides, he added.

When asked if he thought it was just “tough” that a family butcher had to close because it couldn’t compete with the “three-quid chicken” sold at the supermarket, he said: “Small benefits for thousands of families can be a big loss for the family of the butcher but you can never be casual about it.

“You have to ensure the better organisations come through.”

Continue reading the main story
I felt very strongly inside that Tesco was doing the right thing… but I realised I wasn’t winning the argument for some people.”

End Quote Sir Terry Leahy Former Tesco boss Sir Terry got his first job at a Tesco in Wandsworth, London, when he was 17-years-old so he could support himself during sixth form college.

The third of four sons, he grew up in a prefab on an estate in Liverpool. His father was a greyhound trainer and his mother was a nurse.

He said he couldn’t please everybody when it came to views on supermarkets over small High Street stores.

“If you talk to people, 95% of the population quite like supermarkets but 5% don’t, but in Britain this (5%) is three million people so they have a right to say what they think.

“I felt very strongly inside that Tesco was doing the right thing, in terms of how it was conducting its business, how it was serving ordinary people and how it was employing ordinary people but I realised I wasn’t winning the argument for some people.”

Large chains

The British Independent Retailers Association said 98% of the the UK’s £150bn grocery industry was controlled by just nine stores.

But deputy chief executive Michael Weedon claimed there could be a silver lining for smaller businesses.

He said as large chains such as HMV and Blockbuster closed, more retail premises would become available at cheaper rents.

Among the tracks Sir Terry chose to take with him to a desert island were The Beatles’ I Want To Hold Your Hand, Simon & Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound, Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough and Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

He said he would also take The Complete Works of Charles Dickens and his luxury item would be tea.

As chief executive, he made his name transforming the supermarket from a lacklustre brand into Britain’s biggest retailer.

Desert Island Discs with Sir Terry Leahy was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 11:15 GMT on Sunday 3 February

Yahoo sees small rise in revenues

Yahoo sign outside its headquarters Yahoo has signed “key partnerships” with NBC Sports and CBS Television Yahoo has reported fourth quarter revenues of $1.35bn (£860m) in the fourth quarter, up nearly 2% on the same time a year before.

A one-off accounting charge meant fourth-quarter net income was $272.3m, down by 8% compared to $295.6m in the same period 12 months earlier.

In after-the-bell trading in New York shares in the company gained 4.5%.

About 700 million web surfers visit its website every month, ranking it among the top in the global industry.

However, it shed more than 1,000 jobs during 2012, and has long been divided over whether it should focus on media content or on tools and technologies.

Chief executive Marissa Mayer was brought in last July from Google to turn the company round, and the latest financial figures are the first full quarter’s under her leadership.

Ms Mayer has been focusing on building better mobile and social networking services.

She said that during the quarter Yahoo made progress “by growing our executive team, signing key partnerships including those with NBC Sports and CBS Television and launching terrific mobile experiences for Yahoo Mail and Flickr”.

Smartphone card payment systems seek small firms

 Burger stall owner Tom Reaney can take card payments via his iPad A new solution is being offered to small businesses who want to give their customers the chance to pay by credit or debit card, but do not want to be tied in to a monthly payment contract.

Several firms are now offering them the chance to take these payments using a dongle on their smartphone or iPad. The start-up costs are either zero or minimal, and there is no monthly fee, but the business pays a percentage of each transaction.

iZettle is one of a number firms offering the small card-reader that plugs into iPhones, iPads and a number of Android smartphones or tablets.

The customer hands over their card to the stallholder – or plumber or window-cleaner – and it is swiped through the device. Mastercard and American Express card holders then sign for their purchase.

Continue reading the main story
“I sell maybe 40 burgers to one office in one day and that wouldn’t have been feasible without the use of cards”

End Quote Tom Reaney Burger Bear Visa users have to hand over their mobile phone numbers and tap in security details on their own phones. This may change in the near future as companies introduce chip and pin technology which Visa will accept.

The merchant pays a commission of 2.75% per transaction, and the consumer gets to use their plastic rather than cash in new places.

Tom Reaney runs the burger stall “Burger Bear” in Shoreditch in London, and has recently signed on with iZettle, as he told Radio 4′s Money Box programme.

“We don’t have the usual amenities restaurants usually have, so I always used to take cash,” he says.

Mr Reaney adds that it would also have been too expensive to sign a fixed monthly payment contract to get a normal card reader.

He believes around one in five of his customers now opts to pay with a card

“I sell maybe 40 burgers to one office in one day and that wouldn’t have been feasible without the use of cards.”

Security changes Continue reading the main story
The money has always appeared in my bank account, no transactions have been declined, my accountant is happy”

End Quote Jim Stewart Director, Butta Some shoppers Money Box spoke to said they would be worried about the security of their cards if they were asked to put them into someone’s iPad or smartphone.

But the traders say the system is secure and customers can request a receipt is sent to their own smart phone with the details of the transaction.

iZettle says 15,000 traders signed up with it in November. But several other firms are also fighting for their share of the market.

Sum Up offers a similar service. It launched five months ago, and as well as its UK operation it says it is expanding in nine other countries.

Jim Stewart is a director of Surrey-based Butta, a firm which makes eco friendly wax for skis and snowboards. He does occasional trade shows so did not want to pay a monthly rental charge for a traditional portable card terminal.

“I think it’s definitely going to take off, the world is going that way,” he says. “The money has always appeared in my bank account, no transactions have been declined, my accountant is happy, it’s all been good.”

Payleven, based in London and Berlin, is another firm offering a service where Mastercard and American Express cards holders sign when making a purchase. It says it will be launching the first chip and pin version of this payment for smartphones running Google’s Android software or Apple’s iOS in February.

Money Box is broadcast on Saturdays at 12:00 GMT on BBC Radio 4 and repeated on Sundays at 21:00 GMT.

You can listen again via the BBC iPlayer or by downloading Money Box podcast.

Small Pacific countries improve budget positions

A new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says many smaller Pacific Island nations have improved their budget position in 2012, as a result of stronger-than-expected revenue.

The ADB’s latest Pacific Economic monitor says Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu, saw stronger-than-expected revenue thanks to a new fishing licence scheme and bigger harvests made possible by the El Nino weather pattern.

Higher revenue and successful fiscal consolidation helped Tonga and Samoa, while in Fiji, a new advance payment scheme for company taxes boosted revenue and narrowed the deficit, although the ADB has warned debt is still a concern.

However, the fiscal position in the Pacific’s fast-growing economies – Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – deteriorated in 2012, mainly due to softening commodity prices.

Topics: budget, business-economics-and-finance, pacific, kiribati, nauru, tuvalu, papua-new-guinea, vanuatu, fiji

Small investors shun India’s Bharti Infratel IPO

telewNEW DELHI: Small investors largely shunned an IPO by the tower arm of Indian telecom firm Bharti, aimed at raising $845 million, but the issue was fully subscribed thanks to institutional buyers, data showed Saturday.

The initial public offer (IPO) marked Bharti Airtel’s return to the capital market after a decade-long break, and was the biggest public issue since state-run Coal India raised $3.4 billion in an IPO in late 2010.

The tower arm, Bharti Infratel, planned to sell 66.1 million shares, or more than 40 percent of its offering, to small investors and offered them a discount.

Individual small investors took just under 20 percent of their allocation but demand from institutional buyers ensured that total bids exceeded the shares on offer by 1.3 times, according to stock exchange figures.

Since the Coal India offer which had bids for more than 15 times the number of shares on offer India’s IPO market had virtually dried up as the economy slowed, with over 50 firms pulling their offers since early 2011.

But in recent months, India’s benchmark 30-share Sensex stock index has surged, led by optimism over a blitz of government reforms and overseas fund in-flows.

Bharti Infratel has over 34,000 transmission towers across 18 states covering 11 telecom circles, and also holds a 42 percent stake in Indus Towers — the world’s biggest tower firm — which has around 110,000.

Analysts said problems dogging the troubled telecom sector in which profits are under pressure and regulation has been erratic were responsible for the weak individual investor demand along with competition from other smaller issues.

Bharti group chief executive Sunil Bharti Mittal told reporters he was happy with the outcome and said he believed the “the doors have opened” for other IPOs with the Bharti offer.

Bharti Infratel was expected to keep a little over 75 percent of the issue proceeds while a quarter would go to private equity firms including Temasek, The Investment Corp of Dubai and Goldman Sachs, according to issue documents.

After the IPO, Bharti Airtel’s stake in Bharti Infratel would fall to 79 percent from a current 86 percent, while private equity firms will own 10.58 percent, down from 14 percent earlier.

Telecom transmission tower companies earn their money by leasing space to mobile phone firms.

Bharti Infratel is expected to use the proceeds to expand its number of towers and upgrade existing ones.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

Low-cost licence plan for small Adelaide venues

Updated November 28, 2012 14:43:29

Adelaide City Council has asked the South Australian Government to make some changes to its proposed late night code for venues.

The council is worried some restaurants and smaller venues may have to do the same as large nightclubs, by switching to safer, unbreakable glassware after midnight and installing metal detectors at their premises.

Councillor Natasha Malani said smaller venues did not attract the same level of alcohol-related violence and behavioural problems as bigger ones.

“We’re encouraging smaller venues to establish in the city. They attract a different person who comes and wines and dines and wants a different experience to a nightclub experience and we should be encouraging that service,” she said.

Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood said the cost of implementing some planned changes would be a barrier for small business.

“We really want to make sure that small bars in the city are supported in a way that’s actually going to help the long-term vibrancy and add to city safety,” he said.

A staff member for the state Planning and Business Services Minister said smaller venues had little to fear, as the provisions would make clear it was large venues operating into the early hours which needed to comply with the new requirements.

Planning and Business Services Minister John Rau said the Government would ensure start-up businesses could obtain low-cost, minimal-documentation liquor licences, easing some of the legal and cost issues they would otherwise face.

The low-cost option would assume the business operated in hours somewhere between 11:00am and midnight with a maximum capacity of 120 people. Applications would be taken for exemptions to trade until 2:00am.

Topics: local-government, hospitality, government-and-politics, states-and-territories, crime-prevention, law-crime-and-justice, adelaide-5000, sa

First posted November 28, 2012 09:28:16

Small packages, big performance

You’ve seen all the specifications, but how do the small tablets do when you turn them on.

Books: iPad mini If you’re going to buy a tablet for reading, then turn to the iPad mini. The Apple tablet isn’t amazingly better than its peers — they are all great for reading — but it has one advantage over the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD: You can read books offered by all the app stores, iBooks, Kindle, and Google Play.

Magazines: iPad mini Again, the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7 fall victim to Apple, this time thanks to the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch screen. All three tablets are fine for flipping through a magazine, but the magazine simply shines when you read it on the iPad mini. The size and shape of the iPad mini’s display allow magazines to completely fill up the larger screen, which can’t be said for the other two.

App selection: iPad mini Because Apple gave the iPad mini the same resolution as the iPad 2, the mini already has a truckload of apps built specifically for its display and much more than what the Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire HD have for their screens. Nexus’ Google Play keeps growing and the Amazon Appstore is respectable, but there’s no doubt who the clear winner is.

Article continues below

Surfing the Web: Tie All of the tablets were great for surfing the Web and very quick, but none of them stood out. The Kindle Fire HD gets props for always showing the most content when looking at pages vertically in portrait mode, while the iPad mini showed most when it was held horizontally in landscape mode.

Sound: Kindle Fire HD If you’re looking for a tablet to play your tunes, the Kindle Fire HD might be it. With dual speakers, which are located on either of its sides, the Kindle Fire HD easily had the loudest sound. It was a bit on the tinny side at peak volume, but overall the sound was easy to the ear. The iPad mini wasn’t too far behind and overall it provided a richer and crisper sound. The Nexus 7, however, was far too soft to truly compete in this category. That’s in part because its speaker is placed on its back and is pointed away from the user.

Video: iPad mini and Nexus 7 If you’re buying your tablet to watch video, then turn to the iPad mini or the Nexus 7. Both devices delivered excellent images. The Nexus 7, in particular, shines when you watch a YouTube video, while the iPad mini’s display delivered very sharp images when watching Netflix films and shows. However, because videos are widescreen, the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch really doesn’t give it an advantage over the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD’s 7-inch display — the image on the iPad mini is just barely larger. As for the Kindle Fire HD, the images on its videos don’t look as great because it is so saturated. However, all that saturation looks very nice for all other tasks, especially gaming.

Gaming: iPad mini If you want to buy a small tablet so you can play games on the go, then look no further than the iPad mini. With the largest display and fastest processor, games simply look and run best on the iPad mini. In some instances, the mini’s version of games had much more detail than what you get on the Kindle Fire HD or the Nexus 7. It’s also nice that Apple’s App Store has a larger game selection than what you’ll find on the other devices. Second place for gaming goes to the Kindle Fire HD. It’s display makes the colors in game apps pop out. Games also ran really well, but the main issue with the Amazon tablet is it has fewer games than both the mini and the Nexus 7. The Nexus 7, meanwhile, was acceptable, but the games often had less detail than the mini and sometimes it felt as though the tablet’s processor couldn’t run games as smoothly as the other two tablets. Of course, this only really matters if you’re trying to play hard-core games like “N.O.V.A. 3.” If you’re just trying to play something like “Temple Run,” all three run and look just fine.

Survey shows small business struggling

Updated November 19, 2012 12:16:10

A survey shows small businesses are continuing to struggling with falling prices and profits, while wages keep rising.

The quarterly survey of more than 1,600 small businesses by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry showed a modest dip in conditions from 41.2 in the June quarter to 41.1 in the three months to September.

However, the reading of 41.1 is well below the break-even level of 50 points, and indicates small business conditions are continuing to worsen.

The biggest drags for small business were poor profits, driven by falling prices, while costs such as labour continued to rise.

Small business also had a generally pessimistic view of where the Australian economy would be in a year’s time.

“It is alarming that small business growth indicators, such as sales revenue, profit growth and business investments, are approaching their historic low levels previously recorded during the height of the global financial crisis,” noted ACCI’s chief economist Greg Evans in the report.

“Small businesses have become increasingly concerned that labour costs have continued to rise and remain elevated, despite all other trading indicators trending lower in recent months.”

Small businesses blamed government for many of their problems, with business taxes and government charges, Federal Government regulations, and state government rules nominated as the top three constraints on investment.

Insufficient demand slipped down the list of constraints from second to fourth, with labour costs ranked fifth and sixth out of 20 factors.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, small-business, economic-trends, australia

First posted November 19, 2012 12:11:21

Small firms prove ‘easy to hack’

Surveys suggest many small businesses would not notice a cyber-security breach Small businesses – those employing a few hundred people or less – are increasingly becoming the target of hackers.

They may not think they have any data worth stealing but even the smallest company can be custodian to information that represents hard cash to criminal gangs: credit card details, customers’ names and addresses, or the designs vital to an innovative start-up – all have a ready criminal market.

When attention grabbing headlines such as “UK suffering 1,000 attacks an hour” are reported there is a tendency to assume this as an issue only for the larger enterprises; household names that we think of as the powerhouse of our economy.

However, that is a dangerous mistake to make.

There is mounting evidence that small businesses could be our Achilles heel when it comes to cyber-security. And, it is these small businesses which are the foundations upon which our economy rests: destabilise them and everything else comes crashing down.

Weak protection

Over the past 12 months a number of surveys have emerged which suggest that in excess of 60% of these small businesses have suffered some form of successful malware attack.

Most small businesses cannot afford the IT professionals who help safeguard the servers of larger firms

When you realise that even basic security precautions will result in the majority of attacks “bouncing off”, you begin to understand they must be quite poorly prepared for the hackers to be so successful.

It’s not entirely surprising that small businesses are quite so poorly defended.

Someone running a small business is not necessarily going to have security as their main priority.

They are typically entrepreneurs not security experts. Money is always tight and there is a natural dynamic tension between need and cost.

You can see which way the tension is tending when you read in the same surveys that nearly 20% of small businesses only concern themselves with cyber-security following an intrusion. More worrying still, one report indicates that 10% of small businesses would have no way of knowing if they had been successfully attacked.

Breached back doors

Criminals also recognise that smaller businesses can often be a way of reaching onward to the larger firms.

Continue reading the main story
Larger businesses are becoming acutely aware that potentially valuable assets could be at risk somewhere further down their supply chain”

End Quote It is as true now as it ever was that the weakest part of a chain is where you should attack, and the supply chains in our modern global, hyper-connected economy are highly extended and, for larger international corporations, you can have upwards of 5,000 to 10,000 smaller suppliers inputting to your end products and services. That represents a lot of potential back doors.

To date, selling security software has been akin to selling insurance.

Sadly the perception is that it will “never happen to me” so smaller businesses put off what they see as a significant expense for what they see as a very remote eventuality.

There is even a suggestion in some surveys that smaller businesses are tempted to use unlicensed security software, or, worse, that which they are offered for “free”.

Unfortunately, such software is far from a protection but is sometimes the very vehicle for carrying malicious software into the companies systems.

You should use “free” software only if you are sure it is from a reputable company, and that the company which built it provides it directly.

Insecure suppliers

As smaller businesses feed the larger businesses, those larger businesses are becoming acutely aware that potentially valuable assets could be at risk somewhere further down their supply chain.

Take for example a car manufacturer which designs a cutting-edge headlight design.

They don’t fabricate the lights themselves but pass the designs to a smaller manufacturer who in turn may subcontract elements of the manufacture.

A hack attack can risk a small supplier losing its contract with its client

That cutting-edge design, worth considerable sums in intellectual property, can end up with a relatively small business and is then protected using only their security, not that of the large car manufacturer.

Hence, if a small business is to join part of one of these large supply chains, they can differentiate themselves from the competition by demonstrating that they can protect the intellectual property entrusted to them to the same degree as it is protected at the start of its journey.

An emerging trend is for those who disseminate valuable intellectual property to large distributed supply chains to track and audit who has access to what data. If the smaller business proves to be a source of a leak then they will not be in that supply chain for very long I would suggest.

Small businesses cannot put off considering cyber-security any longer.

Just as you hire in expertise for doing the accounts, there are many who can advise on the best way to protect you and your clients’ valuable data.

Failure to do so will ultimately cause the business to fail either through direct losses from an attack, or from being dropped by customers who feel their data is inadequately protected.

Alan Woodward is a visiting professor at the University of Surrey’s department of computing. He has worked for the UK government and consults on issues including cyber-security, covert communications and forensic computing.

Abbott reaches out to small businesses

Posted November 15, 2012 15:01:18

Tony Abbott has set a goal of growing the number of small businesses by at least 30,000 a year if the Coalition wins the next election, double the current rate of growth.

Speaking at the Menzies Research Centre in Melbourne, the Opposition Leader described the sector as the “creative heart” of a strong economy and declared that the Coalition “gets small business”.

“I want the artisans of our country to feel that they can open businesses. I want the baristas of our country to feel that they can open cafes. I want the IT consultants to feel that they can start businesses and employ people,” he said. 

“That’s what I want – the confidence in our economy that is necessary for people to become employers again.”

Mr Abbott says under Labor the growth rate in the number of small businesses has fallen dramatically when compared with the previous Howard government, and he has promised to restore it to an annual rate of 1.5 per cent.

That equates to an extra 15,000 small businesses per year on top of the 15,000 already created on current trends.

In announcing the policy, Mr Abbott did not expand on previous ideas to help the sector, which includes reducing small business red tape costs by $1 billion per year and having a dedicated small business minister in Cabinet.

He has also again taken aim at government policies which he says are “suffocating” small businesses, including industrial relations changes, a blow out in regulations, superannuation changes and the carbon tax.

But Small Business Minister Brendan O’Connor says Mr Abbott’s track record does not match his rhetoric.

“Tony Abbott, when he was the small business minister, allowed the horrendous business activity statement to apply on his watch,” Mr O’Connor told reporters in Brisbane.

“Tony Abbott voted against the stimulus package in the parliament, which… if it hadn’t passed, would have seen the destruction of businesses around the country.

“Tony Abbott also opposed the instant asset tax write-off initiative that small businesses asked for and also opposed the loss carry-back initiative, and has promised to scrap those initiatives if he’s to win government.”

Mr O’Connor says Labor acknowledges that small business is the “engine room” of the economy and the Government’s policies have helped the sector.

Topics: small-business, business-economics-and-finance, federal-government, australia

Markets make small gain despite US superstorm

Posted October 30, 2012 19:03:58

The share market managed a small gain today in very light trade, as the market closure in the US kept local investors on the sidelines.

The All Ordinaries finished six points higher at 4,506, while the ASX 200 put on nine points to 4,486.

Trade volume on the ASX 200 was around two thirds of its average.

US share trading is likely to remain suspended until at least Wednesday as authorities keep a close eye on the effect of what is now former hurricane Sandy.

That is expected to continue to put a dampener on trade across the Asian region as investors struggle for direction.

Virgin saw one of the biggest jumps on the ASX 200 after it announced the purchase of 60 per cent of budget carrier Tiger Airways.

It has also snapped up the mining sector’s air bus Skywest Airlines.

Shares jumped 5.4 per cent to a two-month high of 48.5 cents.

Domestic travellers might not be jumping for joy though, with former Qantas economist Tony Webber predicting ticket prices may rise as much as 10 per cent if the deals go ahead.

Both are before the ACCC.

The shares of rival Qantas ended flat at $1.43.

Elsewhere, the bank and resources sectors led the gains.

The big four banks all ended higher, with Commonwealth leading up 1 per cent.

The major mining stocks ended mixed with BHP up 0.4 per cent while Rio Tinto went into reverse.

About 5:30pm (AEDT) the Australian dollar remained in a tight trading, almost unchanged from the same time yesterday buying 103.4 US cents.

On the cross rates it was mixed, buying 80.1 euro cents, 64.5 British pence and 82 Japanese yen.

There was also a lack of appetite to trade on commodity markets: West Texas crude was unchanged from yesterday at $US85.5 a barrel, Tapis also unchanged at $US113.5, while spot gold was down slightly to $US1,709 an ounce.

Topics: stockmarket, currency, australia

Myer posts small sales increase

Updated November 15, 2012 12:53:22

Retailer Myer has posted a small rise in sales for the first quarter of this financial year, boosted by fashion and cosmetics sales.

Myer says same-store sales, which is seen as the best comparison, rose 0.8 per cent in the 13 weeks to October 27.

Total sales rose 1 per cent to $688 million, with the best results in Western Australia and Queensland.

The department store says menswear, womenswear, childrenswear and cosmetics were the strongest performers contributing to the small rise in sales.

Chief executive Bernie Brookes attributed the gain to a boost in consumer sentiment and the interest rate reduction handed down in October.

However, Mr Brookes says conditions for retailers remain difficult and much will depend on how merry Christmas trading is for Myer.

“We are looking forward to our busiest time of year during the Christmas and stocktake trading period,” he said in the report.

“We are delighted with how the stores look, in particular showcasing our many new brands and highlighting the bright colours in this season’s merchandise.”

The news of Myer’s improved first quarter sales brought some early Christmas cheer to long-suffering shareholders, with the company’s shares rising 4.5 per cent to $2.09 by 12:50pm (AEDT).

However, they are still well down on the $4.10 price they floated at around two years ago.

A peak industry body is also tipping a strong holiday shopping season ahead.

The Australian Retailers’ Association expects a near 4 per cent jump in pre-Christmas sales this year compared with last year, pushing sales to $41.2 billion.

The research, conducted by Roy Morgan, forecasts the strongest increases for the ACT and Western Australia, with Tasmanian sales expected to fall.

Food and hospitality are expected to see the best gains in sales.

Department stores, which rely on sales at this time of year, are expected to see just a modest increase of 0.8 per cent.

Yesterday, figures from Westpac showed consumer confidence has jumped to its highest level in more than a year and a half, as interest rate cuts finally boost household sentiment.

The more upbeat retail outlook, combined with Myer’s sales result, has pushed the rest of the sector higher: David Jones was up 4 per cent to $2.56, JB Hi-Fi was up more than 2 per cent to $10.41 and Wesfarmers was up 0.2 per cent.

Topics: retail, business-economics-and-finance, australia

First posted November 15, 2012 10:08:01

Yahoo sees small rise in revenues

22 October 2012 Last updated at 21:14 GMT  Marissa Mayer joined the firm back in July Yahoo has posted a 2% rise in revenues for the first three months under the leadership of its relatively new chief executive Marissa Mayer.

The internet group’s revenues for the third quarter of 2012 totalled $1.09bn (£680m), compared with $1.07bn for the same period of last year.

Yahoo’s net profit soared to $3.2bn, from $298m a year earlier.

However, much of the profit was achieved from sale of its stake in the Chinese e-commerce business Alibaba.

When the $2.8bn earned from the sale of its shares in Alibaba is excluded, Yahoo says it achieved an income of $177m.

That is a small step in the right direction for the company’s chief executive, Marissa Meyer, who is attempting to revive the company’s fortunes.

She earned a reputation for decisive action during 13 years at Google and she has spent her first months as Yahoo’s chief executive quietly moving the internet pioneer back to its roots in technology.

The company has long been divided over whether it should focus on media content or on tools and technologies.

Despite its decline in recent years, Yahoo still has a promising business. About 700 million web surfers visit its website every month, ranking it among the top in the global industry.

However the amount of activity people engage in on its sites is steadily, declining and its smartphone offerings are deemed lacklustre.

Yahoo ended the quarter with 12,000 employees, down more than 12% from 13,700 a year earlier.

The next big thing is small

Although currently viewed as prohibitively expensive, Ultrabooks or ultra-thin notebooks with Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system, are expected to be the next big thing in consumer technology.

Ultrabooks (defined by thinner, lighter bodies, longer battery life and with a shorter boot-up time than typical notebooks) are expected to explode in popularity in the near future as cloud-based systems become more prevalent and reducing the need for a traditional hard drive.

An Ultrabook has to use one of Intel’s Core microprocessors, not any other chip from the company – let alone a chip from rival Advanced Micro Devices, whose chips have lately been found in some thinner laptops. For a laptop with a 14-inch screen, the system can’t be thicker than 18 millimeters, according to Intel’s specifications.

Much of the extra weight and price in normal laptops comes from stuff you will never use, like an optical drive to watch a DVD. So why not do away with it and lighten the device by around 300 grams? That is what the ultrabook does. It also shifts from a hard disk drive to the solid state drives which cut another few hundred grams. You do not really need that 500GB hard drive in a laptop.

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“The key factor is the pricing. Intel executives said from the beginning of the year that the market would not really take off until Ultrabooks were priced at $699 or so. Though some models have reached that point–or even lower–many more of them cost $1,000 or more,” said Craig Stice, a senior analyst at IHS iSuppli.

However, GBI Research expects this to change over the next five years as the Asia-Pacific region is expected to become the biggest buyer of Ultrabooks in 2016, with an estimated 55 million units. The Americas are predicted to come second with 54 million unit sales, while Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) will come third with combined sales of around 40 million.

Some help for Ultrabooks should arrive late this month along with Windows 8. Among other things, the software has a new interface that works with touch, enabling the use of clamshell-style laptops in a touch mode as well as models that convert into a tablet orientation.

But that trend could affect the pricing equation also, Stice said. A touchscreen is expected to add around $100 to the price of a laptop.

He said that PC makers could choose to bring touch to Ultrabooks at around a $799 price point. Or they could reserve the feature for higher-end devices.

IHS iSuppli has lowered its forecast and said the industry is on track to ship 10.3 million ultrabooks worldwide in 2012.

The global PC shipments are set to fall for the first time in 11 years this year as consumers, cautious about the global economy, hold off on computer purchases in favor of mobile devices.

That means the market will total about 348.7 million units in 2012, down 1.2 per cent from last year.

“So far, the PC industry has failed to create the kind of buzz and excitement among consumers that is required to propel ultrabooks into the mainstream,” said Stice.

“This is especially a problem amid all the hype surrounding media tablets and smartphones. When combined with other factors, including prohibitively high pricing, this means that ultrabook sales will not meet expectations this year.”

PC makers generally have been looking to ultrabooks to boost the ailing market. “Optimism has vanished and turned to doubt, and the industry is now training its sights on 2013 to deliver the hoped-for rebound,” he said.

Consumers and companies alike also remain drawn to smartphones and tablets, which continue to eat up PC sales.

According to Denzil D’souza, business head of notebooks at Samsung Gulf Electronics, “It is true that ultabooks haven’t picked up momentum so far, but we [vendors] are optimistic for the years to come. Market co exists for both ultrabooks and tablets.”

PCs are going through a severe slump while ultrabook prices have come down a little, there are still some “significant challenges that will greet Windows 8 in the coming quarter,”Jay Chou, senior research analyst, Worldwide PC Tracker.

“Windows 8 and ultra-slim notebooks are going to create demand for notebooks next year in the Middle East and Africa,” said Fouad Rafiq Charakla, Research Manager at IDC MEA.

“If prices go below $800, then there will a spurt in demand for ultra-slim notebooks. The prices have fallen this year. A couple of vendors have reached close to the $800 price point in the region while others are still about the threshold,” he said.

“I don’t see why end users will not go for the ultra-slim notebooks where they can take advantage of the light weight and long battery time if prices fall below $800,” he said.

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Small share gains expected following mildly positive lead

By finance reporter Justine ParkerPosted October 04, 2012 08:52:08

Global markets have seen small gains, after positive news on the US economy helped trade on Wall Street, but oil prices dropped amid concerns about global economic growth.

In the United States, a study showed the services sector grew at a faster rate in September.

Figures also showed that job creation by private companies beat expectations.

The Dow Jones was 0.1 per cent higher at 13,495, the S&P 500 rose 0.3 per cent to 1,451, and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.5 per cent to 3,135.

Shares in computer giant Hewlett-Packard dropped to a nine-year low after its chief executive, Meg Whitman, said she expected full-year profit to come in below expectations.

The company is struggling to turn around its weak performance. It has had six chief executives in seven years.

Over in Europe, results were mixed after a survey showed economic conditions worsened in the eurozone last month.

Investors are also still waiting for some clarity on when Spain will request a bailout.

The FTSE 100 in London gained 0.3 per cent to 5,826 and the DAX in Germany rose 0.2 per cent, but the CAC 40 in France fell 0.25 per cent.

In futures trade locally, the ASX SPI 200 index was 12 points higher at 4,447, suggesting a positive start to trade on the Australian market.

In commodity trade, spot gold remains at year highs, worth $US1,778 dollars an ounce.

West Texas crude oil dropped to $US88 a barrel, amid concerns about demand for crude oil and global growth.

In currency trade, the Australian dollar was down further against the greenback after figures yesterday showed Australia’s trade deficit ballooned in August.

It was buying point 102.1 US cents, 79.2 euro cents, 80.2 Japanese yen, 63.5 British pence and nearly $NZ1.25.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, markets, currency, stockmarket, futures, australia

Small business battles after Gunns collapse

Updated October 09, 2012 12:26:59

A forestry business in Tasmania’s north-east has stood down workers while it tries to recoup half a million dollars from Gunns Limited.

Gunns’ creditors are preparing to meet tomorrow for the first time since the timber company entered administration two weeks ago.

Among them is the operator of the Flinders Island shipping service and Scottsdale-based Stronach Timber Industries.

The timber processor has been closed since it stopped receiving Gunns’ sawlogs and yesterday stood down almost 30 staff.

Dorset mayor Barry Jarvis says his north-east community is feeling the effects of Gunns’ descent into voluntary administration.

He has called for the Federal Government to offer low interest loans to smaller companies affected by the collapse.

He believes small businesses in his region may have collectively lost up to $1.5 million and they need assistance.

“[The Government should step in] so between the time of what’s happened and when the administrator or receiver can get it up and going again, these people are offered something,” he said.

He says many small businesses in his area also lost money when Forest Enterprises Australia folded in 2010.

“The majority of people that have been caught this time have also got caught with the FEA,” he said.

“So within 18 months it’s the same issue again and as it is in the past, it’ll be banks and the receivers that’ll get the money.

“I don’t think it’ll flow through the chain so I doubt that they’ll recoup anything at all.”

Flinders shipping company Furneaux Freight is holding out little hope it will be repaid the money it is owed.

Furneaux Freight has shipped logs from Flinders Island to Gunns’ Bell Bay sawmill since June.

In a statement, director Shannon Bayles says the shipping service is not sustainable without the sawlog freight.

Topics: timber, small-business, company-news, scottsdale-7260

First posted October 09, 2012 10:21:48

Time to debunk the myth of small business

New York: The biggest winner of the first week’s presidential debate was not Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama. It was small business.

Each candidate claimed his economic policies would do more to help small companies prosper. Romney went further when he swatted down Obama’s proposal to raise income taxes on the rich by claiming it would hurt small-business owners and thus snuff out job creation.

Yet to portray small businesses as the engine of job growth is to vastly overstate their role. The argument that raising tax rates on upper-income individuals would harm entrepreneurs is likewise flawed. We love small business as much as anyone. But with the US facing unsustainable budget deficits that will require many Americans to pay higher taxes, it’s worth separating fact from fiction.

First, small businesses destroy almost as many jobs as they create. Second, only about three per cent of small-business owners fall into the upper-income tax brackets that would increase if, as Obama has proposed, the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. And third, many businesses counted as small aren’t engaged in traditional small-business activity. Instead, they are partners in hedge funds, law firms and private-equity shops, or they are highly paid actors, athletes, speakers and authors.

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Taxes Avoided

Small businesses are being drawn into the political discussion because of the way they are structured. To avoid paying corporate income taxes, many small-business owners report profits on their individual tax returns. These “pass-through” entities include sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations. Some of them are very profitable, but a large number aren’t what most of us would consider a small business, such as a dry cleaner or coffee shop.

One reason for the confusion is that there is no universal definition. The US Small Business Administration counts companies with as much as $35.5 million (Dh130 million) in sales and 1,500 employees, depending on the industry.

Outside government, companies with less than $7 million in sales and fewer than 500 employees are widely considered small businesses.

Two recent reports by Ernst & Young LLP – one commissioned by the S Corporation Association and another by the National Federation of Independent Business – took the broad view. They concluded that pass-through companies accounted for almost 95 per cent of all business entities in 2008 and employed 54 per cent of the private-sector workforce. Romney’s debate-night assertion that the tax increase would cost 700,000 jobs stems from these studies.

Such findings, though, are at odds with those of several other studies, including one in 2011 by the US Treasury Department. It attempted to better define small business by looking at criteria such as income, labor, and other business expenses and tax deductions. Its conclusion: “Many filers are not engaged in business activity as it is traditionally understood.” Just 20 million of the 34.7 million filers reporting pass-through income qualified as a small business, Treasury said. Of those, about one-fifth qualified as an employer.

True, most small-business wealth is accumulated at the top. The three per cent of filers with pass-through income in the upper brackets account for half of all pass-through income. Owners of small businesses that employ workers are also more concentrated in the top two brackets – accounting for 10 percent of owners – supporting the argument that a tax increase would cost jobs.

Tax Deductions

Yet it isn’t at all clear that raising taxes on the high- income group would depress hiring and investment. For one thing, small businesses enjoy a host of tax breaks, including the ability to immediately deduct many costs as a business expense.

More important, recent economic research shows that small companies play no greater role in job creation than large ones do. What matters more is age: New businesses account for the biggest share of job gains. Those companies tend to be small yet unprofitable. They would be largely unaffected by an upper- income tax increase.

And once most startups pass the five-year mark, they destroy more jobs than they create.

University of Maryland economist John Haltiwanger found, for example, that small mature businesses have “negative net job creation” and that the bigger contributors to job growth are startups, which account for roughly three per cent of employment in most years.

Alan Viard, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, says the argument that small business creates jobs “does not stand up under scrutiny.”

Small business is important and the US should continue policies that enable entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life, including tax breaks for hiring new workers and deductions for expenses. Robert Litan, director of research at Bloomberg Government, favors “entrepreneurs’ visas” and green cards for those with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.

The US faces a serious financial shortfall that will require many Americans, including the wealthiest, to pay higher taxes. Republicans can argue against tax increases for many reasons, but hampering small business isn’t one of them.

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Osborne faces small world of BOE as governor choice looms

London: George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, will evaluate just how many people think they are clever enough to be governor of the Bank of England.

Bank of England Deputy Governor Paul Tucker, Financial Services Authority Chairman Adair Turner and Independent Commission on Banking Chairman John Vickers are among the favourites to succeed Mervyn King when he steps down in June after a decade in the job. The decision will be announced by the end of 2012.

“It’s going to be a difficult choice to make,” said Grant Lewis, head of research at Daiwa Capital Markets Europe and a former Treasury official.

“Every one of the main candidates is adequately qualified. In these circles, it’s a small world. The panel and the candidates know each other. It makes the task of interviewing them harder.”

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Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman Jim O’Neill said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News on Monday that he had not applied. Former UK civil service chief Gus O’Donnell chose not to seek the position, the Financial Times reported, citing an interview.

Candidates were asked to send a resume, a cover letter and a questionnaire disclosing prior political activity and potential conflicts of interest. A panel of officials will draw up a shortlist and notify those who haven’t made it. They will then conduct interviews and make a recommendation to Osborne, with his Liberal Democrat coalition partners also having a say.

The selection panel comprises Treasury Permanent Secretary Nicholas Macpherson, Second Permanent Secretary Tom Scholar and David Lees, chairman of the bank’s court of directors. Lawmakers will also question the new governor before the job commences.

Recent probes over rigging of the London Interbank Offered Rate, which led in June to Barclays being fined a record £290 million (Dh1,712 million), have harmed chances of former bankers from applying. John Gieve, a former Bank of England deputy governor, said last month it would be “very difficult” for anyone who has recently worked in banking to get the job.

Tucker’s odds

Tucker, who has spent more than three decades at the central bank, is still a favourite to succeed King, even after his questioning by lawmakers in July over his knowledge of Libor rate-rigging raised concerns about his suitability for the job.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, a Liberal Democrat, said in an interview on September 24 that Tucker’s chances hadn’t been hurt by the Libor probe and that the governor needs to be someone who “understands banking but who isn’t captured by banking.”

“Tucker is the best qualified,” said Shamik Dhar, a former Bank of England economist and head of investment strategy at Aviva Investors, which oversees $409 billion (Dh1,502 billion) in London.

“If this wasn’t a quasi-political appointment, he’d get it.”

The government’s desire to appear committed to reforming the banking industry may favour a candidate with experience of financial regulation, such as Vickers, said Dhar.

Bank reforms

Vickers, a professor at Oxford University and a former Bank of England chief economist, was appointed by the government in June 2010 to lead the Independent Commission on Banking, an inquiry designed to promote stability and competition in the UK banking industry. The government has pledged to take action on the commission’s findings by 2015.

Appointing Vickers “would scare the banks sufficiently, a way for the government of saying ‘we’re serious about banking reform, but we’re not downright out to get you,’” said Dhar, who worked at the central bank when Vickers was chief economist. “From that perspective, Vickers fits the bill. The question is, does he have the authority to run a large institution?”

Bookmaker William Hill has Tucker as favourite at odds of 7-4, according to odds offered last week, meaning a winning £4 bet would yield a £7 profit. Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney was at 5-2, Turner was 3-1 and Vickers was 10-1. O’Donnell, who has now said he’s not applying, was at 5-1.

Other candidates cited by William Hill include former policy maker DeAnne Julius and former Treasury Permanent Secretary Terence Burns.

‘Socially useless’

Turner, who steps down as FSA chairman next year when the regulator is split into two agencies, has been the most outspoken critic of banks among the candidates, saying in 2009 that many of the activities carried out by financial-services companies were “socially useless.” In July, he signalled his interest in the job, saying in an interview that he would “obviously not rule myself out.”

O’Donnell had previously indicated he might send in his resume.

“When they do advertise it, I’ll make up my mind whether I want to apply or not,” he said in an interview after he joined Toronto-Dominion Bank as an adviser in June.

Whoever is appointed will take over a beefed-up institution with new powers over financial regulation to add to its role setting monetary policy. The job of the next governor is “near impossible” and “only superhumans need apply,” Ed Balls, economics spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, has said.

“The new job is a much bigger role, it requires someone who has the authority to walk the corridors of government,” said Steven Bell, a former Treasury official who is now chief economist at hedge fund GLC in London. “Gus O’Donnell has very good instincts on monetary policy and is a man of considerable talent. He’d be a great choice.”

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Qatar Airways says made small loss last FY

Monday, 17 September 2012 19:41 Posted by Muhammad Iqbal

qatar34DOHA: Qatar Airways, the Gulf state’s rapidly growing flag carrier, made a small loss in the last financial year which ended in March because of high oil prices, its chief executive said on Monday.

“We had a very small loss because of the huge increase in oil price,” Akbar al-Baker told reporters.

“Profit on an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) level was 47 percent above the previous year, but on a net level we made a small loss. For the 2010-2011 financial year, we made a substantial profit.”

He did not elaborate. Qatar Airways, which is not listed on a stock market, does not regularly disclose its earnings.

The airline carried 14.3 million passengers last financial year, a number which is expected to increase to 17 million in the current year, Baker said.

He also said the opening of the first phase of Qatar’s planned $11 billion new airport would be delayed until June next year after a contractor was dropped from the project. The airport was originally due to open this December.

Baker said that as a customer, he was in favour of a potential $45 billion merger between Europe’s EADS and BAE Systems to form the world’s biggest aerospace and defence company. The firms revealed last week that they were in talks on a merger.

“It will enhance their product, and it is good for an airline to have two major contributors to the Airbus aircraft getting together as one company. This would bring efficiency and reduce the cost of the product. Of course I’m in favour of it.”

Access to loans: Red tape, lack of awareness bedevil small farmers

Most funds go to mills and big farmer­s, leavin­g little for small ones.  Most funds go to mills and big farmers, leaving little for small ones.

HYDERABAD: Experts and bankers have identified red tape and lack of awareness as major impediments that have kept small farmers away from credit facilities provided by banks.

Shortage of agriculture finance officers in banks and landlessness to an extent were the other hurdles that were highlighted at a seminar organised by Larh Humanitarian Development Programme here on Thursday.

The speakers were unanimous in their view that the farmers should be rescued from the influence of middlemen and informal lenders, who charge as much as 100% in annual interest.

“A farmer is required (for obtaining a loan) to produce evidence of land ownership and its evaluation (passbook), but the problem starts here,” said Noor Ahmed Nizamani, President of Sindh Agriculture Forum. However, because of unorganised land record, only a small number of farmers did possess passbooks, Nizamani said.

World Bank’s Zahid Hussain Jalbani pointed out that the age-old system of passbooks had been replaced by electronic passbooks in other places.

Soneri Bank Regional Manager Ghulam Mustafa Panhwar agreed that this was one of the key factors behind slow growth of agriculture financing. “We have suggested to the State Bank to make it mandatory to complete the process of issuing passbooks within a week,” he said.

“The SBP allows lending up to 80% of the value of land. A big landlord with land worth Rs100 million can get up to Rs80 million in loans, but a small farmer can’t get more than Rs500,000,” he elaborated.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2012.

Large landholdings divided into small family units

Bigges­t hurdle to transf­orming agricu­lture remove­d: Husain. Large landholdings have now been divided into smaller family units according to heredity laws, says IBA director Ishrat Husain while speaking at the Sindh Board of Investment (SBI).


Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi Director Dr Ishrat Husain has said large landholding in Pakistan is not the biggest hurdle in the way of transforming the agriculture sector like it was a few decades ago.

Large landholdings have now been divided into smaller family units according to heredity laws, he said while speaking at the Sindh Board of Investment (SBI) here on Tuesday. On the occasion, SBI and IBA signed an agreement on training of graduates.

“Infrastructure from farm to market is extremely inefficient and eats up around 40% of the total farm produce. Even if the country reduces this wastage by 10%, it will be able to generate thousands of new jobs,” he said.

It is a myth that the government can provide jobs to all citizens and the solution to unemployment lies in small and medium-sized enterprises rather than government jobs or for that matter large-scale manufacturing, he pointed out.

Elaborating, he said the government employs three million people while large-scale manufacturing has one million employees. This shows that still millions of people are employed in labour-intensive sectors like wholesale, retail and transport.

According to the agreement, IBA will train 300 graduates under a six-month ‘entrepreneurship development programme’.

In phase I, 300 candidates from different parts of Sindh will be selected for training. The students will be divided into two batches of 150 and the programme will be conducted by IBA Karachi and IBA Sukkur.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012.