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Monday newspaper round-up: Smaller companies, British mining, ENRC

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22/10/2012
Small businesses improve, UK mineral mining resurfaces, ENRC takes stand on corruption

Business insolvencies fell by 3.1% in September, compared with a year earlier, according to Experian. Companies with fewer than 50 staff experienced the biggest improvement, with 10% fewer becoming insolvent. While the picture also improved for companies employing more than 500 staff, there was a 7.5% rise in insolvencies among companies that employ between 100 and 500 workers.

Experian warned that the faltering performance of larger companies may filter through to the smaller businesses that supply them, according to The Times.

 

The public is wrong to assume that British mining is a thing of the past, it says, adding that growth in the £2.3 million industry could deliver highly skilled jobs in rural areas hit most severely by the economic downturn. Andrew Bloodworth, head of minerals at the BGS, which advises the Government on minerals policy, said that the present era of relatively high commodity prices driven by often hungry Chinese demand had prompted renewed mining interest in the UK.

“Some mineral companies are effectively coming back to Britain and Europe and looking at it as a source of new materials,” he said. The country already supplies most of its own raw materials for some key construction ingredients, such as concrete, which uses gravel and stone. Greater infrastructure investment in road, rail and offshore defence projects could lead to a boost in production, The Times explains.

 

ENRC has resolved not to buy mineral rights via controversial middlemen who campaign groups say pose an appearance or risk of corruption, the Mail understands. Chairman Mehmet Dalman has taken an increasingly active role in addressing the firm’s reputation for boardroom rows and opaque deals to buy mineral rights in the developing world.

The FTSE 100 group has suffered damage to its image over mineral concessions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) bought via companies controlled by Israeli diamond tycoon Dan Gertler. His companies are located in secretive tax havens, raising fears that a lack of transparency obscured whether the right price was paid or who the ultimate beneficiary of the deals was, although Gertler representatives have previously denied corruption and stated that the Gertler family are the only beneficiaries.

ENRC was also forced to pay out £800m to fellow miner First Quantum earlier this year to settle claims that the Congolese government had seized mines before selling them on to ENRC via Gertler, The Daily Mail writes.

 

Spain’s ruling conservative party has held on to control in regional elections in Galicia, giving a boost to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he pushes on with tough austerity measures, even as nationalist parties triumphed in the Basque Country. The elections in two of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions on Sunday were seen as the first real test for Mr Rajoy’s Popular Party after ten months in power that have seen a deeply unpopular programme of public spending cuts and tax hikes.

Voters had been widely expected to punish the governing party for its handling of the economic crisis, as street protests become more frequent in a nation suffering 25% unemployment. But, according to exit polls, the Popular Party looked set to retain its absolute majority in Galicia, a conservative heartland where the party has ruled for 24 of the last 31 years, giving much needed breathing space to Mr Rajoy as he weighs up the need to request a full sovereign bail out, The Telegraph reports.

 

The Takeover Panel is set to launch a review of its controversial “Cadbury law” amid growing concerns that the new regime is stifling a healthy takeover market. Would-be buyers and bankers have complained that the new rules, which force companies to complete deals within a strict 28-day deadline, have made it close to impossible to complete sufficient due diligence in time. Deal insiders claim the regulations have created a series of problems, from an overly restrictive due diligence period to limiting the information available to shareholders.

Those restrictions come despite deal volumes already being depressed and financial markets volatile, The Telegraph says.

 

The Government is looking at options to boost the economy through spending on infrastructure, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has told The Times, as he warned that Britain was facing a very long, slow and difficult recovery. In the biggest hint yet that the Treasury is considering altering its spending plans, Danny Alexander said that the coalition could give the economy greater support by changing the composition of spending towards more growth-enhancing areas without increasing expenditure, according to The Times.

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