China’s ZTE Corp, which recently sold Iran’s largest telecommunications firm a powerful surveillance system, later agreed to ship to Iran millions of dollars worth of embargoed U.S. computer equipment, documents show.
The American components were part of an 8 million euro equipment-supply contract, dated June 30, 2011, between ZTE, a Chinese trading firm and a unit of the consortium that controls the Iranian telecom, Telecommunication Co. of Iran, according to documents reviewed by Reuters. ZTE is China’s second-largest telecommunications equipment maker.
The documents shed further light on how Iran obtains sophisticated American tech products despite U.S. sanctions on Iran. China is a major conduit. Reuters in March revealed an earlier deal between ZTE and TCI, which centered on non-American surveillance equipment but also included some U.S. tech goods. The latest deal, though smaller in scale, was much more reliant on U.S. products.
Beijing and Moscow have vetoed Western attempts to strengthen sanctions against Iran over its nuclear-development program. ZTE, based in the city of Shenzhen, is publicly traded but its largest shareholder is a Chinese state-owned enterprise.
According to the contract’s parts list, the equipment to be delivered from China included IBM servers; switches made by Cisco Systems Inc and Brocade Communications Systems Inc; database software from Oracle Corp and a unit of EMC Corp; Symantec back-up and ant-virus software; and a Juniper Networks firewall. The parts were intended for business-support services, including a ZTE billing system.
A spokesman for ZTE said last week in an email that “as far as we know” the company had not yet shipped any of the products. Asked if ZTE intended to do so, he emailed a new statement Monday that said: “We have no intention to implement this contract or ship the products.”
He also said ZTE decided “to abandon” the agreement after “we realized that the contract involved some U.S. embargoed products.”
The contract had made clear the American provenance of the goods: Its accompanying parts list, signed by ZTE, lists more than 20 different computer products from U.S. companies. Washington has banned the sale of such goods to Iran for years.
U.S. companies that responded to requests for comment said they were not aware of the Iranian contract; several said they were investigating the matter.
A spokesman for IBM said: “Our agreements with ZTE specifically prohibit ZTE from the transfer of IBM products to Iran. If any of IBM’s business partners are breaching our export compliance agreements, then IBM will take appropriate actions.”
A Brocade spokesman said the company doesn’t sell any products to Iran “and we certainly have not shipped these products to” ZTE. A spokesman for Greenplum, the EMC unit, said: “We have no knowledge of the contract described, but are actively researching this matter.” A Cisco spokesman said: “We continue to investigate this matter, as any violation of U.S. export controls is a very serious matter.”
According to the U.S. Treasury Dept., a U.S. company would violate sanctions if it shipped products requiring an export license to a third party knowing the goods would end up in Iran.
The United States, Europe and the United Nations have been imposing increasingly tough economic sanctions on Iran to pressure it to refrain from developing nuclear weapons, which Iran denies it is doing. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France – plus Germany are scheduled to hold talks with Iran Saturday in Istanbul over its nuclear program, which it maintains is peaceful.
Reuters reported on March 22 that ZTE had sold Iran’s TCI a surveillance system capable of monitoring landline, mobile and internet communications. The system was part of a 98.6 million euro contract for networking equipment signed in December 2010.
The article reported that despite a longtime U.S. sales ban on tech products to Iran, ZTE’s “Packing List” for the contract, dated July 24, 2011, also included numerous American hardware and software products, although they were not part of the surveillance system.
The U.S. product makers – which included Microsoft Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc, among others – all said they were not aware of the Iranian contract, and several said they were investigating the matter.
The day after the article was published, a ZTE spokesman said the company would “curtail” its business in Iran. The company later issued a statement saying, “ZTE no longer seeks new customers in Iran and limits business activities with existing customers.”
China’s ZTE planned to sell embargoed U.S. computer to Iran.
Three other telecommunications equipment makers – Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and China-based Huawei Technologies – previously have said they would reduce their business in Iran. Huawei and ZTE have emerged as the largest equipment suppliers to Iran, according to people involved with the country’s telecom industry.
The parts list for the June 2011 contract was much more dominated by U.S. products than the earlier equipment contract. The earlier pact was between TCI, ZTE and a Chinese trading company called Beijing 8-Star International Co. The latest contract was between ZTE, Beijing 8-Star and an Iranian company called Aryacell.
Aryacell is a unit of Iran Mobin Electronic Development Co., part of a consortium that controls TCI. According to the contract, Beijing 8-Star was required to provide “third-party equipments,” while ZTE was responsible for supplying equipment and collecting payment. The contract was to last until December 31, 2015.
Officials at Aryacell and TCI did not respond to requests for comment. A representative of Beijing 8-Star, reached in China, declined to answer questions, saying: “Concerning my business matters, it’s not necessary for me to tell you anything.”
The contract’s parts list included products made by manufacturers from several countries. But most were from the U.S., with IBM items accounting for the bulk of them. The IBM parts included 30 servers and other computer equipment with a total cost of more than 6.8 million euros, minus about a 30 percent discount.
Several of the IBM server models, though new, were discontinued shortly before the contract was signed. It called for a 12-month warranty on all equipment.
It is not clear how ZTE will get out of the contract. According to the terms, the contract only can be terminated if Aryacell breaches it, becomes bankrupt or can’t pay its debts.
Business joins forces to kill clean energy fund.
BIG business has warned that energy prices will soar further as Labor’s $10 billion clean energy fund pushes up the cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
In an escalation of the backlash against a key plank of Julia Gillard’s clean energy plans, a coalition of Australia’s top 100 companies is urging the government to dump its plans for a Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Rather than it being technology neutral, a CEFC would pump taxpayer funds into green projects, they argue.
The move by the Business Council of Australia is significant, as it represents a widening of the rearguard action by business against the CEFC, which until now has been largely opposed by heavy industry, coal firms and coal electricity generators.
In a new submission to the government’s draft energy white paper, the BCA warns that the fund will be directed at projects that are likely to be “less economic than available alternatives”.
“This will distort market outcomes and increase the overall cost of reducing greenhouse emissions,” the submission states.
“The CEFC also fills a role already adequately covered by banks and other financial institutions and places the government in the undesirable position of being a last resort.”
Other groups, including the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, which represents heavy industry, have also warned the body could distort markets.
The BCA says if the CEFC is retained it should include carbon capture and storage, which the multi-party climate change committee had excluded from funding because of pressure from the Greens.
Business has also hit out at complex rules that are hindering coal-seam gas projects, which have “the potential to make an important contribution to Australia’s energy mix”.
“However, to date exploration for CSG has been slowed and hampered by lengthy approvals and consultation processes,” the BCA says.
“Unclear and inconsistent regulatory frameworks are currently preventing CSG from being brought to market at least cost with a subsequent cost impact on energy end users.”
Also on the costs front, the group has warned that the renewable energy target continues to impose costs on energy users, and that if the scheme is not wound up then the Climate Change Authority being established as an advisory group to the government should be looking to find ways to reduce the costs from the RET.
China business confidence index rebounds in Q1.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revised business confidence index, which measures sentinment across industries, rose to 123 in the first quarter, from 120.9 three months earlier, the NBS said in a statement on its website www.stats.gov.cn.
Despite the recovery, confidence in the first quarter was still lower than a year ago, when the index stood at 138.9.
The statistics agency said it had revised the confidence index to include two sub-indexes that measure business sentiment in the present and future periods. It did not disclose readings for the sub-indexes.
It said its business climate index, another measure of firms’ expectations of growth, inched lower to 127.3 in the first quarter, from 127.8 in the previous quarter.
The indexes are based on surveys of almost 20,000 Chinese firms of different sizes in sectors including construction, transport, retail, software and catering.
A reading above 100 implies improving operating conditions for Chinese companies and rising confidence about the future.
China will release a flood of March data this week which is expected to show the economy is cooling, not crashing as some market watchers have feared.
On Tuesday, China surprised markets by returning to an export-led trade surplus, raising the prospect that a rebound in the global economy is lifting overseas orders just in time to compensate for a slowdown in domestic demand.
But the relatively slack pace of export growth may still fuel investors’ concerns about the outlook for Chinese companies, which saw new orders and profit margins slump through 2011.
With the Economy Bouncing Back, Start a Buoyant New Business with Happy Jump.
As economic recovery begins making its way to potential small business owners, a bounce house rental is a smart choice.
Now that jobless claims are on the decline, and America’s coffers aren’t completely drained of extra cash, it’s time to start thinking about that small business endeavor again. There are plenty of fields to go into with varying rates of success. Opening the restaurant you’ve always dreamed of may seem tempting, but having learned a lesson or two from the economic downturn, you might be too smart to take on something so risky. But the really smart money, when the entrepreneurial spirit seizes you, is on a bounce house business. Not only can you begin a stable new business for yourself, you can also be a job creator by hiring a delivery and maintenance crew, and bring delight to the kids in your community.
One great thing about bounce house rental: There is no monopoly on your local market. Get your name out there, and the business will come pouring in. Parents are also benefitting from the bright spot in the economy. Over the next couple of years as your business grows, you’ll find that families in your town are ever more eager to shell out a few bucks for a great kids’ party. Even if there’s already a bounce house rental in your area – the market is rarely saturated – owners of businesses that rent out moonwalks from Happy Jump, Inc. report enormous profits even in highly populous cities.
There’s also the added benefit to your community that comes from hiring workers. There are a number of functions that must be performed. Although the workload is relatively light (thankfully, for the small businessperson) as your business expands, cleaning and maintenance, as well as transportation can be performed by a team of professionals hired by your company. You’ll be benefitting your community by reducing local unemployment in addition to netting a profit.
Lastly, the greatest gain to your community is all the fun to be had jumping in your inflatables. Happy Jump, maker and distributor of great inflatables for sale like bounce houses and other products of this nature. These are not only fun, but some of the safest moon bounces and inflatable water slides on the market. The huge variety available at Happy Jump, Inc. means your business will have a diverse selection of fun moon bounces and bounce castles for all the kids in your community to enjoy.
ICT business mission to New Zealand come May in the works.
“Discussions focused on preparations for the 2nd Philippine ICT Partnership Opportunity Mission to New Zealand on May 26 to 28,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
French Business Confidence Stalls, Factory Output Drops: Economy.
French business confidence stagnated and factory output dropped, underlining the challenge the victor in the country’s presidential election will face in reviving economic growth.
A gauge of sentiment among factory executives was unchanged at 95 in March after dropping in February, the Bank of France said today. Manufacturing production fell 1.2 percent in February, a third month of declines, the national statistics office, Insee, said in Paris.
The data show how Europe’s second-largest economy is struggling to grow in the face of the region’s sovereign debt crisis, reducing the room for maneuver of President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande, as they seek to woo voters in the final weeks of the election campaign. The Bank of France said its surveys suggest that gross domestic product didn’t expand in the first quarter.
“The general message is this: the French economy is practically stalled,” said Michel Martinez, an economist at Societe Generale SA in Paris. “France doesn’t have the problems of its southern neighbors, but its industry remains in recession and we remain very far from a classic recovery scenario.”
The lack of growth at least partly reflects the impact on demand of budget cuts in neighboring Italy and Spain, as well as deficit-reduction efforts in France.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is stepping up efforts to reassure investors he can bring the country’s deficit under control and prevent Spain from becoming the fourth euro-area country to require a bailout. Rajoy met with his health and education ministers yesterday to discuss cuts of more than 10 billion ($13 billion) as the government reiterated its pledge to trim borrowing to 3 percent of GDP next year.
European stocks fell to a two-month low and Asian equities retreated on concern growth is slowing after China’s imports missed economists’ forecasts. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index (SXXP) decreased 1 percent as of 10:14 a.m. in London as trading resumed after most European markets were closed yesterday. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.3 percent. Gold climbed 0.5 percent.
China reported an unexpected trade surplus last month as import growth trailed forecasts, highlighting the risk of a deeper slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.
Inbound shipments rose 5.3 percent, the customs bureau said today, below the 9 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. Exports increased 8.9 percent from a year earlier, more than forecast, leaving a trade surplus of $5.35 billion, compared with a median projection for a $3.15 billion trade deficit.
In Europe, Germany also reported an unexpected increase in exports driven by overseas demand. Exports rose 1.6 percent from January, when they gained 3.4 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. The figures are seasonally adjusted.
The German performance represents a model that Sarkozy has repeatedly held out as an example for France, while using the fate of Spain as an example of what could happen if the country doesn’t pursue economic reforms such as his proposal to cut social charges on payrolls by raising sales tax.
“It’s worked wonderfully in Germany,” he said on April 5. At the same time, “Spain is today in the midst of a crisis of confidence,” he said.
Hollande responded by saying that Sarkozy was in no position to give lessons on the crisis at the end of a five-year mandate in which jobless claims have jumped to a 12-year high and France’s debt load has increased.
French voters will choose between 10 candidates in the first round of the election April 22, and the two front runners will face off on May 6.
Business leaders more upbeat about economy: report.
Business leaders are increasingly optimistic about U.S. economic prospects in the year ahead and more than half plan to hire more workers, according to a survey conducted by Chase Commercial Banking.
The survey comes amid mixed news for the U.S. economy, which has staged a slow comeback from the depths of the recession. Worse-than-expected jobs data on Friday sent stocks tumbling early this week, and were seen as a sign of lingering uncertainty in the nation’s recovery.
Around 49% of business leaders surveyed said they were optimistic about the national economy, up from 39% of participants in a similar survey last year.
They were even more optimistic about their own companies’ prospects, with 79% expressing confidence about future performance.
Reflecting that view, 55% said they planned to hire in the next year, while just 4% said they would cut jobs.
At the same time, 63% of the participants saw an increase in workers’ wages in 2012.
Chase didn’t give comparisons with participants’ perspectives on their own companies last year.
The regulatory environment remains a concern for 66% of participants–the same amount as last year–who said it would make it harder to add workers.
Chase surveyed executives at 1,000 U.S. companies with annual revenues ranging between $10 million and $500 million. It is unclear how many of those executives actually participated.
Best Buy’s silver lining: Its mobile business.
The big-box retailer’s saving grace has been its still humming mobile-devices business. But is it enough to save the company?
At least Best Buys still has its cell phone business.
On the heels of a disappointing quarterly report and today’s resignation of CEO Brian Dunn, it’s easy to think the entire company is doomed to follow in the steps of fallen electronic chains Circuit City and CompUSA. Yet its mobile devices business — cell phones in particular– has been impressively resilient during its recent troubles.
The cell phone business, which Best Buy has spent time and money building up, represents one of the rare bright spots in the company. Over time, Best Buy will likely be more heavily weighted towards the mobile business. Unfortunately, it may not be enough to save the entire company and offset the big declines in its other businesses.
When Best Buy reported its fiscal fourth-quarter results last month, most of its segments saw revenue declines, particularly a steep one in the entertainment category, as DVDs and Blu-ray discs took a big hit. But the computing and mobile phones segment posted growth of 7.6 percent in same-store sales over the previous month. By itself, the mobile phones business likely would have grown even faster.
That’s important because that unit makes up nearly 40 percent of the company’s total revenue for the month. The appliances business, which was the only other segment to show growth, only represents 5 percent of total revenue.
For a company — and an industry — that has seen little go right, the cell phone business continues to hum along. While a vast majority of consumers still shop for phones directly with the carriers, Best Buy has been able to carve out a healthy chunk of business for itself. With the smartphone world rapidly evolving and new devices coming out all the time, Best Buy has created a role for itself as an impartial consultant for consumers.
Best Buy has spent the past few years building up the mobile phone business, both by creating specifically designated areas within its stores, as well as opening mobile-centric stores. Employees in this segment receive special training to better answer customer questions. Over the past few years, the company has negotiated for some exclusive products, including the HTC Flyer tablet.
While Best Buy’s ads have often run during the Super Bowl, this year marked the first time the company specifically focused on smartphones with its spot.
“We want to use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to awaken recognition of Best Buy as a mobile source,” said Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Best Buy’s connectivity business group, ahead of the game.
With nearly half of all consumers still using a basic cell phone, Best Buy, like all of the carriers, sees the opportunity in getting people to upgrade.
Best Buy gets paid a bounty by the carrier for each customer it signs up. But the incentive structure is flat, so salespeople aren’t biased toward one phone or the other. That’s the store’s biggest appeal: it isn’t trying to push one product over another, and offers virtually all of the products from each of the major carriers. It will also often bundle in additional discounts or freebies, such as a Best Buy gift card or free video game.
Even as it closes big-box stores, Best Buy plans to open 100 standalone Best Buy Mobile stores. That could very likely be the start of a broader migration toward a more mobile-centric offering.
Still, the continued interest in smartphones may not be enough to get Best Buy through its recent struggles. The closing of 50 big-box stores this year fiscal year portends the same kind of troubles CompUSA and Circuit City faced before they declared bankruptcy and disappeared.
Meanwhile, Best Buy’s sales declines in its other segments continue, with languishing demand for consumer electronic products. The 21 percent month-over-month decline in the entertainment category is particularly stark.
More importantly, Best Buy is losing the e-commerce battle to the likes of Amazon, which has grown into the de-facto place for consumers to buy their goods.
But fortunately for Best Buy, handsets remain a place where consumers want advice and touch and feel and actual device before making a purchasing decision, something they can’t do with a Web site.
So how Best Buy looks in a few years — or whether it survives — remains an uncertainty. But it could very well end up as a mobile device-centric chain, rather than the one-stop shop for all things electronic.
Dodger Stadium opens for business, but will the fans return?
Fans will descend upon the storied Chavez Ravine ballpark Tuesday for the sold-out home opener featuring a celebration to mark the stadium’s 50th anniversary. But what happens the next day?
The gates at Dodger Stadium open Tuesday at 10 a.m. and fans will descend upon the storied Chavez Ravine ballpark for the sold-out home opener. There will be a celebration to mark the stadium’s 50th anniversary. The Beach Boys will play.
And then what happens the next day?
The organization, the team, and all of baseball are wondering if the fans will return this season, now that Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the franchise.
Will all be easily forgiven? Will the new Magic Johnson-led ownership group mean the automatic return of the faithful?
The Dodgers have historically had some of the best and most loyal fans in baseball. Nine of the top 22 single-season crowds in National League history belong to the Dodgers. They hold the Major League Baseball record for most years (25) with over 3 million in attendance.
Only last year attendance plummeted. Officially, attendance was down 18%, but it was actually much more severe. MLB attendance figures are for tickets sold, not fans in attendance. And last season the number of no-shows was stunning to the point of embarrassment.
Maybe some stayed away because of the economy or because they were frightened after the Bryan Stow beating on opening day or put off by the strong police presence afterward.
But there is little doubt the vast majority stayed away because they were simply fed up with McCourt’s ownership. Without any actual organization, they boycotted in jaw-dropping numbers. There were some games at which there appeared to be fewer than 10,000 in actual attendance.
Now that Guggenheim Baseball Management is scheduled to take over the team, will fans automatically queue up in traditional numbers? Or will some stay away through April until McCourt is gone? Or will some continue to boycott because he retained half ownership in the parking lots? Or will some simply have fallen out of the habit of going to a Dodger game?
Certainly, attendance will rise, but to what degree is uncertain. McCourt attempted to encourage a return to more typical Dodgers attendance numbers by slashing ticket prices this season. According to Team Marketing Report, the Dodgers have cut the average ticket price by 24%.
An early prediction: Attendance will return to respectable numbers, but still fall far short of their glory years. If the Dodgers contend, however, there will be the typical bump.
Attendance is the biggest question of the season for the Dodgers. And, like everything else associated with McCourt and the Dodgers, little about it is simple. Wounds heal, but how quickly?
Business climate: Hopes pinned on a new economic model
If attracting outside investment can be difficult during a recession, tempting foreign capital into a country that has received an international bailout is a gruelling task.
At present, Portugal would not appear likely to attract a queue of investors. Anyone pondering whether the country’s current business climate may present a contrarian opportunity must at the same time consider a series of alarming data.
Unemployment, while lower than Spain’s, stands at 15 per cent and gross domestic product is expected to shrink by 3.4 per cent this year.
Meanwhile the yield on 10-year government debt still hovers above 11 per cent, following Standard & Poor’s decision in January to cut Portugal’s credit rating to junk.
Such an environment is hitting many businesses hard, as consumers retrench and credit remains difficult to come by, as the banking system hoards funds so as to meet higher capital requirements.
John Duggan, a former partner with PwC in Portugal, says: “It is going to be difficult to get the economy working properly until we see credit come back.
“When you speak to people you hear that trading conditions are difficult in service industries. Demand is there, but pricing is under pressure and people are working twice as hard for half the money. Many retailers also had a terrible Christmas, with sales starting early.”
Ernst & Young expects a fall in consumer spending of 6.2 per cent this year, followed by a further contraction of 3.1 per cent in 2013, while investment in the non-financial corporate sector fell 19 per cent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The recent opening of a flagship store by Gucci on Lisbon’s Avenida da Liberdade may be of little consolation to those who are struggling to make ends meet, but it is one of a small group of companies expanding into the country during its difficulties.
Other encouraging examples include Yo! Sushi, the British restaurant company, which opened in Lisbon last year, while Klépierre, the French shopping centre operator, opened its fifth site in the Algarve last April.
More recently, there has been some encouraging progress in reducing the deficit, and in the health of the banking sector, with the loan exposure of its eight largest banks being assessed as better than expected by troika inspectors in a report released at the end of last year.
At the end of March, Portugal reported that its 2011 general government deficit had come in at 4.2 per cent of GDP, lower than the 5.9 per cent projected by the troika in December, and down from 9.8 per cent in 2010.
While fewer investors are willing to commit themselves to the country against the backdrop of the European debt crisis, and with foreign direct investment plunging by 46 per cent in 2010 compared with the previous year to €1.1bn, this fall does not look as gruesome when viewed against the fortunes of some non-eurozone countries. In the same period, the UK saw FDI fall 53 per cent.
“The new economic model of Portugal and the way out of this situation will be through the openness of our economy,” he says. “By that I mean both the attractiveness for foreign investment and the internationalisation of our companies”.
Privatisations will bring in foreign investment, with partners likely to be selected not only for the price they will pay but also for their ability to attract subsequent investment.
The sell-off of the state’s 21 per cent stake in Energias de Portugal (EDP), the utility, to China’s Three Gorges for €2.7bn in December was contingent on further Chinese investment.
Reform of the labour laws, regarded as among the most inflexible in the European Union, will relax rules on hiring and firing workers and reduce the costs of extra hours.
This, says João Alves, country managing partner at Ernst & Young, will help market the relatively young and educated workforce better.
“There are many qualified young professionals working abroad, and many Portuguese are very comfortable working in the English language,” he says.
Cultural ties to Brazil, Angola and Mozambique can also provide its companies with a unique selling point to foreign investors looking to enter those fast growing markets.
“Portugal no longer stops at the borders of Europe,’ says Mr Reis.
“It is well positioned, historically, culturally, economically, logistically, to have an important role in the new global economy,” he adds.
The Business Finance Store Highlights Upcoming Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs.
Venture-Capital firms raised $4.88 billion in funding in the first quarter of 2012, the National Venture Capital Association and Bloomberg reported. The amount is the highest raised since the second quarter of 2009. With these large amounts of funds raised, it makes some wonder whether these investments went to businesses run predominantly by men or women. Interestingly enough, when looking at the top entrepreneurs and small business owners, men significantly outnumber women. However, opportunities for women entrepreneurs do exist. In the recent blog post “Calling all Women Entrepreneurs- Apply by April 30!” The Business Finance Store discusses a funding opportunity for women entrepreneurs from Ernst & Young.
Many of the great businesses in America today were started by men, but that doesn’t have to be the case in the future. Ernst & Young wants to promote the development of women entrepreneurs through their 5th annual Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program. Read more about funding and business opportunities for women entrepreneurs at The Business Finance Store Blog.
The Business Finance Store is a business financing and consulting firm that offers customized Business Financial Solutions. Seasoned professionals offer assistance in a variety of financial solutions to help small businesses succeed such as: Business Financial Solutions, Legal Solutions, and Accounting Solutions.
The staff at The Business Finance Store understands that starting and growing a business is an exciting time. They keep it exciting by taking care of some of the most difficult aspects, by providing legal advice, helping with vital responsibilities like accounting & bookkeeping, and by obtaining business finance. They can quickly and easily guide entrepreneurs through many different complicated processes and put them on the path to success.
For 10 years The Business Finance Store has been helping startups and other small businesses legally structure their companies, find the right franchises, get the funding they need, and achieve the American Dream of owning their own successful business. Since expanding nationwide in 2007, they have helped thousands of companies and have funded over $60 Million in business credit lines, not including SBA loans. The Business Finance Store sees limitless potential in the current climate, and looks forward to many strong years of growth to come. Take some time to review their services, and give them a call.
ME business confidence declines.
Middle East business confidence has slumped nine index points to 125 since September 2011 amid eurozone crisis and uncertain economic climate as emerging economies of Brazil and India topped the confidence index, Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workplace solutions, said in a report.
Companies in the Middle East that reported revenue growth fell to 49 per cent compared to 55 per cent six months ago, although companies reporting profit growth remained stable at 45 per cent, the report said.
“Mindful of the need to contain costs in the quest for sustainable growth businesses identify more sales through third parties, increasing use of pay-as-you-go business services and a shorter supply chain and as the most effective cost cutting measures for the coming months,” the report said. Joanne Bushell, Regus vice president for the Middle East and Africa, said Middle Eastern business confidence has suffered a dip possibly affected by the Eurozone crisis and a slight slowdown in BRIC growth economies.
According to the latest bi-annual Regus Business Confidence Index report which tracks the opinions of over 16,000 business managers and owners from 86 countries, business confidence in Brazil has reached 148 points in March followed by India 143 points.
Middle Eastern firms identify paying for unnecessary office space (63 per cent) as the main reason for corporate distress during the downturn, followed by difficult access to cost effective capital (52 per cent).
Respondents identify more sales through third parties (50 per cent), increasing use of pay-as-you-go business services (44 per cent) and a shorter supply chain (40 per cent) as the areas where companies could best make savings without damaging growth prospects, the report said.
Companies in the region report that a wider distribution of customers (47 per cent) and more flexible workspace (39 per cent) would make the greatest contribution to enhancing future business stability as a platform for growth. Globally, the Business Confidence Index rating is lower for small businesses (107) than for large firms (124).
Bushell said although companies reporting profit growth remains table, there is a slight squeeze in those reporting revenues, “therefore it is not surprising that in order to grasp growth opportunities in a sustainable way, businesses are still looking to cut overheads without damaging their growth prospects.”
“In particular, a significant proportion of businesses believe that unnecessary office space, one of the major burdens borne through the global economic downturn alongside the well documented bank lending and capital squeeze, is an area where businesses may focus their cost-cutting efforts successfully,” said Bushell.
Business Travel to Ramp Up in 2012 Despite Setbacks.
Business travel has stabilized and is on track to meet pre-recession levels by the middle of this year, according to a new quarterly outlook from a travel industry group.
But the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) said international outbound travel continues to be soft on ongoing economic uncertainty in Europe, rising oil prices and chronic unemployment.
International travel climbed 8.5% in 2011 but is expected to slow to 3% in 2012 due to weaker demand in Europe and Asia. Michael McCormick, GBTA chief operating officer, called the outlook “troubling,” noting it may cause companies to reroute travelers.
While the U.S. has made some economic strides, weaknesses abroad have led the GBTA to predict just “moderate growth with occasional setbacks” over the next eight quarters.
Yet, the GBTA doesn’t expect any drastic changes because of this, outside of a decline in the frequency of transatlantic business trips. McCormick noted things “still look much better than they did 12 months ago.”
Business travel is on track to experience measured growth throughout the remainder of the year, he said. Spending by businesses on travel is expected to grow by 4.6%.
Visa (V: 116.74, -2.76, -2.31%), which sponsored the GBTA quarterly outlook, said account holders spent 14% more year-over-year, or a total of $235 billion, on both personal and business travel-related purchases in 2011.
Total spending on U.S.-initiated business travel grew about 7% to $251 million, the GBTA said, notable given travel’s relation to the U.S. economy. Business travel has long been considered an economic indicator, with spending increasing as the economy booms and falling as profit margins are pressured.
“The continued stability of business travel bodes well for the economy as a whole and for continued recovery in the employment market,” McCormick said.
The number of business trips taken has declined since 2000, but the amount spent per trip has improved – and that’s not just a reflection of inflation, the GBTA said. At the turn of the century, more than 576 million trips were taken and $242.9 billion spent. Last year, just 445 million trips were taken, down about 23%, but spending grew 3.3% to $251 billion.
The group said that trend is set to continue this year with trips dropping 1% but spending rising 3.6%. Inflation accounts for 64% of the increase, the GBTA said.
McCormick said it’s a reflection of road warriors taking fewer trips, but making the most out of the ones they take by stopping at more places and upping their spending on the road.
Small Business Confidence May Mean Bad News for Jobs.
Business owners’ wavering confidence in the economy may signal more trouble ahead for the job market.
Small business optimism declined last month after six months of gains, according to today’s report from the National Federation of Independent Business. The net percentage of businesses that planned to increase their workforces dropped to zero, the lowest level since May 2011, and down from 4 percent the month before.
Small businesses create 65 percent of net new jobs, with most of that coming from a relatively small group of fast-growing companies, according to the Small Business Administration. After last week’s Department of Labor report showed the U.S. added just 120,000 new jobs in March, below expectations, how worried should we be?
“Next month, if we see the same data and it tracks March, then we expect the unemployment rate will add half a point” in the second quarter, says Holly Wade, the NFIB’s senior policy analyst who co-authored their report. “Over the last few decades, they’ve matched up pretty well,” she says. U.S. unemployment, at a seasonally adjusted 8.2 percent, has declined from 9.1 percent last summer.
Other data point to a brighter employment picture. In March, small employers boosted payrolls by the most in two years, according to the Intuit Small Business Employment Index, which aggregates data for companies with fewer than 20 workers that use Intuit’s online payroll software. “Our numbers are the best numbers I’ve seen since the expansion began,” says Susan Woodward of Sand Hill Econometrics, who worked with Intuit (INTU) to create the index.
Woodward notes that the businesses in the NFIB’s survey may include larger companies, including manufacturers and exporters, that are more directly affected by the European debt crisis or slowing growth in China. The Intuit numbers reflect “really small businesses, and there are no enterprises among them,” she says.
The NFIB’s report, based on responses from 757 of the group’s members surveyed in March, reveals confidence among these firms is still at levels typical of a recession. The reversal in the gauge shows business owners still doubt the strength of the recovery, Wade says. “It’s hard to see consistency in the economy as a whole for owners and to know what the next month will look like,” she says. “At this stage, you would think we would be on some sort of trajectory that has a pattern to it, and the pattern seems to be hills and valleys.”
Canadian business leaders are warming to the idea of a sustained recovery.
Optimism over future sales growth is at a two-year high. At the same time, companies are looking to invest more and intend to pick up the pace of hiring over the next 12 months.
According to a Bank of Canada survey, more than half – 58 per cent – of firms in this country expect to see a faster pace of sales growth in the coming year, “reflecting a more widespread view that sales will increase at a greater rate over the next 12 months than over the past 12 months.”
Another 23 per cent thought sales growth would decline, while 19 per cent expect little change, the central bank said Monday in its quarterly Business Outlook Survey.
That put the spring survey’s “balance of opinion” at 35 points, the highest since the first quarter of 2010.
“With modestly improved expectations for near-term U.S. economic growth and fewer concerns about the global economic and financial situation, some of the dampening effects on sales expectations have subdued, and more firms report that recent indicators of future sales activity, such as order books and new contracts, have improved compared with a year ago,” the bank said.
“The strength of commodity prices and the resulting spillover effects on domestic activity, along with some firms’ efforts to reposition themselves to gain market share in highly competitive markets, are also supporting expectations for higher sales growth over the next 12 months.”
The balance of opinion for employment in the coming year was basically unchanged from the Bank of Canada’s previous survey. But of those surveyed in the first quarter, 55 per cent of business leaders said they planned to add staff, while 12 per cent expected to reduce jobs and 33 per cent forecast no change.
“Most firms expecting to expand their workforces cited the need to support current or expected sales growth, which, in some cases, was related to strategies to increase market share,” the bank said.
The survey also shows that most companies see inflation within the Bank of Canada’s target range of one to three per cent over the next two years.
“Nevertheless, more firms expect inflation to be in the upper half of this range, often citing the recent strength in oil prices as a factor driving their expectations,”the bank said.
On the question of investment in machines and equipment, 46 per cent said they expect to make purchases, another 22 per cent planned to reduce spending and 31 per cent had no plans.
“Many firms reported that their investment spending remains focused on ways to reduce costs and raise productivity,”the bank said.
Just last week, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney urged companies to look beyond domestic demand for growth and to “refocus, retool and retrain” to compete in emerging markets, such as China and India.
The survey of 100 businesses, conducted between Feb. 21 and March 15, also showed companies reporting an easing in credit conditions over the past three months,
The survey results are “consistent with the more optimistic mood on financial markets that has prevailed since Christmas,” said Leslie Preston, at TD Economics.
“While business sentiment has rebounded sharply from the darkest days of last year, the external risks haven’t evaporated, and now there is the drag from elevated energy prices to add in to the equation,” Preston said. “It is worth noting when talking about a year ago, we are comparing to the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, as well as the early days of the Arab spring.”
Still, during the latter part of the survey period, the Canadian economy was churning out a surprisingly large number of jobs. Slightly more than 82,000 new positions were added in March – thanks mostly to full-time, private-sector hires. It was the biggest single-month jump in employment since September 2008, and pushed the jobless rate down to 7.2 per cent – for the first time since September 2011 – from 7.4 per cent in February.
The central bank, which has left its key interest rate at a near-record low of one per cent since September 2010, will announce its next rate decision on April 17,