Monday, 15 October 2007

Virgin pushes forward in takeover

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group has put together a consortium to put forward plans to take control of Northern Rock, which under plans, would keep its stock market listing but would be rebranded as Virgin Money.

Sir Richard has put together a consortium of US and Asian investors, including insurance firm AIG, to take a majority stake in the troubled bank. Its plan would inject substantial funds into the bank and "guarantee" the jobs of most of its 6,000 staff, Sir Richard said. Despite talks of a takeover, shares in Northern Rock have continued to plummet in value in the past six weeks, and closed at 5.9% (273.25p) following Virgin's announcement.

Virgin said its consortium was not looking to buy Northern Rock but that it would inject "hundreds of millions of pounds" in return for a substantial stake. Virgin said Northern Rock needed a "complete rebranding" and that it believed the business could prosper from an association with the Virgin brand. A complete change will occur internally once Virgin has taken over this high street bank, with a Virgin touch to every branch. He wouldn't say how much money Virgin was putting into the deal. "I have pulled together a heavy-hitting consortium that we believe has not only the knowledge and expertise but the financial clout to make a once great British institution great again," Sir Richard said. (source: BBC News)

It is already very difficult to catch the fast growing internet search engine Google and with a share price that last week broke through the $600 (£300) ceiling and looks set to rise even higher, it will be even more difficult to catch.

Not content with dominating the internet, the search giant is now believed to be planning to take the mobile communications market by storm. Lehman analyst Douglas Anmuth believes that Google will launch a mobile phone in February next year that will be similar to the recently launched Apple iPhone in that it will have "an oversized screen perhaps around 3in diagonal and with touch display" plus WiFi capability. Google's main differentiator will be on price – its phone is expected to sell at a fraction of the $400 iPhone.

Mr Anmuth said "We believe a Google phone could be marketed at a price point below $100, and potentially even be free." The incentive for Google to offer a free phone is the online advertising revenue the company could generate with an internet-enabled mobile device. Lehman Brothers also thinks it probable that Google will follow in Apple's steps by adopting a revenue-sharing model with the carriers, and predicts that Orange will be the most likely mobile operator partner for Google in Europe. (source: Independent)

With the already full estate agency list, Tesco is considering a push into Britain’s property market by launching a fully fledged online estate agency. The news comes a fortnight after Tesco suspended an online property marketplace on the advice of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Under the service, customers paid Tesco a flat fee of £199 to advertise their home as being “for sale” on a website run by the supermarket. Tesco claimed that more than 250,000 visitors had visited the website in its first two weeks after it was launched at the end of June. Tesco offered a full refund of the £199 fee to customers when it suspended the service last month.

However, a Tesco spokeswoman said yesterday that rather than turning its back on the property market, the supermarket was reviewing its options “with a view to launching a new and exciting online estate agency service”. Asda became the first supermarket to take on estate agents when it launched an instore homeselling scheme in the North East last year. Under the scheme, Homes@Supermarkets, a separate Northumberland-based company, featured touchscreen terminals in 20 Asda stores. Asda set the commission at 1% and offered to provide customers with home information packs free-of-charge. It is understood that Asda is reviewing whether to roll the pilot scheme out to other areas of England and Wales. (source: Timesonline)

Top tips for new budding entrepreneurs by James Caan. Caan has been creating, building and selling businesses for over 20 years. In 1985, he set up the Alexander Mann Group, one of the UK’s leading HR outsourcing companies, and achieved a turnover of £130 million before selling it to a private equity firm in 2002. He also co-founded an executive headhunting firm with partner Doug Bougie, which they successfulle expanded globally through its Humana International brand, growing to over 147 offices across 30 countries before it was bought by a New York-listed company.

1. Observe the masses and do the opposite
It is much easier to be part of the crowd than not, but an entrepreneur may need to swim against the tide.

2. Ambition is nothing without passion
Anyone can be enthusiastic. Passion is having the character to continue with an idea once that initial emotion has gone. You have got to have that conviction and unquestioning belief in what you are doing in order to be successful.

3. Presentation and preparation matter
If you do not make the best of yourself and present your idea in a clear manner, how can anyone believe that you will do the best for your business?

4. Prove your product
Have you got a good product with verified market acceptability? Market acceptability means that it has been demonstrated to a number of people who have come back and said yes, this is something I would like to buy. I certainly wouldn't invest in something that is no more than a plan on a piece of paper. Showing that you are able to execute your plans effectively is paramount.

5. Do your sums
Make sure that the figures stack up. Nobody is going to be interested in doing business with you if they can't see a return.

6. You can and must learn from failure
Entrepreneurs need to be prepared for things not working out as planned. They have to be prepared to make sacrifices for the business and be prepared for taking risks. Persistence is essential - who dares wins!

7. If you win, somebody else doesn't have to lose
Adopt a win-win formula. A lot of businesspeople walk around with an attitude of "I must win", which in practice often means "winning" at the expense of someone else. To really succeed in the long term, you need to make sure that the people around you win too.

8. Your people are your business
How are your leadership skills? Successful entrepreneurs are rarely one-man bands and exceptional communication skills are vital.

9. Complacency is your enemy
No matter how successful you are, you should never rest on your laurels. Every year you should be wondering how to replicate or build on the success of the year before. It's an ongoing thing - you're never home and dry.

10. Don't work too hard
There are times in business when you have to put everything on one side and really go for it, but there's no point working seven days a week if you don't take time to enjoy life.

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