Page power

For years, exponents of speed‑reading techniques have sought to persuade us that our ability to absorb and retain meaningful information is limited only by our own imagination – and that it’s our misconceptions about the brain’s capacity to take in vast amounts of data that stop us from learning how to read more effectively. ‘We stop refining our reading skills at a very young age,’ says Tony Buzan, one of the world’s leading authorities on innovative learning techniques. ‘Once children are taught how to read – for instance, using traditional phonic or look-say methods – they’re considered to be literate; after that, it’s simply a case of expanding vocabulary and comprehension. But this is missing a critical point – it’s like learning to walk without then going onto practise running or dancing.’

Buzan believes that we all have the ability to double or even triple our reading speeds – and that this ability need not diminish with age; in other words, it’s not too late to learn. So why do so many people regard speed-reading as a bit of a cop-out?

A common assumption is that by reading faster, students are more likely to miss key information. Rowan Hoskyns-Abrahall, co-founder of Solve IT With Science, which developed Really Easy Reader software, disagrees: ‘It’s just not the case,’ she says. ‘It’s true that you can learn to skim-read faster – and this is a useful skill for reviewing documents and books to see what they contain. But if you intend to absorb the contents properly, then you’ll need to read them properly. More importantly, when you’re properly focused and can drop  distracting thoughts, your concentration improves, so your comprehension increases. This is where truly faster reading can save a great deal of time and add value.’

Speed reading is one of the most effective ways of, in a sense, upgrading your brain-power, while unlocking your innate creativity, says Buzan: ‘And it’s far  from a quick fix – learn how to speed-read effectively and it can transform how you learn and work, with lasting results.’

Overcoming belief systems
Hoskyns-Abrahall adds that belief is a common barrier to many personal achievements, not just attaining faster, more effective reading speeds. ‘Most people have been reading at the same speed for years without any change – so they naturally find it hard to believe that it’s possible to read faster to the same effect, never mind even better results,’ she says.’ They’re therefore surprised when their reading skill improves dramatically and instantly. But it gives them great confidence.’

What advocates of speed reading say is that people must overcome ‘sub-vocalisation’ – the human trait where we hear the sound of our own voice as we read. Really Easy Reading’s software uses ‘rapid serial visual presentation’ (RSVP), which eliminates this trait but matches the average reader’s true ability to absorb information. And by utilising RSVP, reading speeds might typically multiply to over 600 words a minute – an increase of about 300%.’

‘Once readers have used easy reading techniques, they have to admit that they can seriously improve their reading skills,’ says Hoskyns-Abrahall. ‘Their pre-conceptions were integral to – and indeed, conflicted with – their previous educational experiences and perceptions.

Speed up your studies
The most popular use of speed-reading techniques amongst students is for revision. No matter how well-structured or bite-sized the chapters and sections, no matter how memorable the examples and box panels, there may be an enormous amount of ground to cover.

‘Revision is based on memory retention,’ says Hoskyns-Abrahall, who references the ‘Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting’. This theory holds that there are a certain number of times it’s necessary to revise a subject in order to commit it to memory.

‘Essentially, students would read the information, revising it, say, five times, with longer lengths between each reading,’ she continues. ‘In other words, they’d read the material now, read it again in an hour, then a day, a week, a month, six months and so on. According to the theory, this should result in 80% retention. So, obviously, as a crucial element of revision is the length of time it takes to re-read the material, speed-reading provides a great advantage.’

Buzan’s speed-reading techniques are highly focused on recall – he says it’s not enough to store information away in the brain; it’s the ability to retrieve key facts and figures when you need them that makes the key difference.

‘If you learn to speed-read properly, you will achieve far more than you can imagine,’ he says. ‘You’ll be able to communicate your knowledge when commanded to, in a way that’s relevant to the needs of the user. That’s why speed‑reading includes an essential element of preparation – you can’t simply steam in and absorb a whole chapter without first previewing the material, taking in factors such as structure, headings, sub-headings and key words – as well as applying your own knowledge of what you, as the reader, are looking for, and what the author is striving to impart. Speed-reading is not an abdication of the brain.’

At the office
But it’s not just for passing exams that speed-reading skills can be deployed profitably. In the knowledge economy, office workers must absorb, retain and recall enormous quantities of information.

‘Sifting through the large daily amounts of emails, reports and web pages really brings the need for speed-reading to the fore,’ says Hoskyns-Abrahall. ‘However, it’s not just about reading as such. Other knowledge techniques can help with managing and channelling information quickly and effectively – such as making fast notes from material, and then structuring documents for presentation or publication. Any speed-reading products worth their salt must also include elements that boost these complementary techniques.’

Looking forward
Speed reading, or simply reading faster, is likely to become more integral in business – and in society, where ‘knowledge is power’, and where the ability to manipulate information is a pre-requisite in today’s (and tomorrow’s) working environment.

‘The ability to save time, and compress both learning and knowledge management into shorter periods, will allow less stressed but more informed and productive lives,’ says Hoskyns-Abrahall.

‘In fact, in the same way that computing advances have allowed more to be done in the available time, speed reading will add further to this. Immediacy of information will become king!’

Work / study balance

Work / study balance: planning your study time

Studying while holding down a job is a whole new ball game, requiring a considerable amount of planning, including around factors you might not have much control over – such as workload pressure or the demands of your boss. Our advice - plan ahead:

  1. Give yourself a break – accept that achieving the perfect balance between work, study and your personal life is a ‘big ask’; that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but don’t beat yourself up about occasionally having to make compromises.
  2. Develop the habit of good habits – no-one wants to be stuck in a rut, but having a structure that allows you to stay disciplined while allowing a degree of reasonable flexibility will help you get into the groove of your studies without feeling straitjacketed.
  3. Identify when you’re at your most alert – optimise your studies by keeping this time free for your textbooks and homework; if that means finding a quiet room in the office during your lunch hour, or before or after work, so be it – and your diligence and dedication will be on display to the powers-that-be.
  4. Maintain a study diary – and add your study schedule into your office diary; you’ll be far less likely to break the commitment you’ve made yourself if your sessions are written down in black and white.
  5. Less is more – a two or three-hour study session might seem like a good idea when you’re bursting with energy  and enthusiasm, but loses its allure at the end of a long, gruelling day at work; by all means put aside evenings to study but take plenty of breaks, especially if you’re reading reams of text on a screen.
  6. Just five minutes – it’s easy to convince yourself there’s little point in studying for much less than 15 or 30  minutes; but short bursts can pay huge dividends; try writing key points in colours on small filing cards to revise on  public transport or when waiting to meet friends.
  7. Take physical breaks – crouching over a book or laptop and concentrating on taking in all you read will take a physical as well as mental toll; stretch, take short walks; even try breathing exercises to re-energise yourself and ensure you don’t give up because of discomfort.
  8. Seize the day – everyone’s different but many of us are better at assimilating complex information during the daytime.
  9. Brain food, but at the right time – certain foods boost our brain power and wellbeing, so ensure you have a balanced diet that includes protein-rich staples (such as fish, broccoli, nuts, dairy products) and sources of serotonin (such as pasta, starchy vegetables and cereals) but be careful not to load up immediately prior to a study session; let your body’s digestive system do its work before you settle down.
  10. Don’t head to bed on your studies – you need quality sleep to be an effective student (and be fit for the office); allow yourself time to relax between studying and sleeping; read or do something to take your mind off the subject.

25 Corporate collapses – and the lessons learnt

There have been some high-profile corporate failures over the past year, and the evidence suggests that the bloodbath isn’t over. We take a look at 25 more prominent cases to draw salient lessons for every business.

It’s getting ugly out there. Credit agency Dun & Bradstreet believes one in nine companies could hit the wall this year, although some accountants and restructuring experts are privately worried that 30% of their clients are in danger of collapse.

In the last 12 months, around 8898 companies have been placed in administration, liquidation or receivership. But what’s most worrying is the number of big brands that have collapsed, including household names such as ABC Learning, Kleins, Strathfield and Midas.

Greg Hayes, director of accounting firm Hayes Knight and SME expert, says the collapse of iconic brands is a troubling sign. Not only does it indicate the wider economy is heading for a prolonged downturn, but the collapse of big-name companies can often have devastating knock-on effects.

Hayes gives the example of ABC Learning: “ABC over the past three or four years were growing at such a phenomenal rate. If you were a small or medium business that was supplying ABC, this has this huge multiplier effect.”

While SMEs are always warned not to become too reliant on any one customer, that sort of growth is hard to resist.

“Typically very few small businesses, if they had the tiger by the tail, would let it go,” Hayes says. “But if your ABC falls over, then the tiger in the tail can turn around and bite you. Then it’s a question of ‘can I adjust my cost base quickly enough to save my business?”

But you don’t need to be the supplier of a collapsed brand name company to run into problems.

Hayes gives the example of the collapse of Storm Financial, another group that had grown at a very fast rate and achieved large market coverage in a short space of time. The fallout from Storm’s collapse is being felt throughout the financial planning space.

“All of a sudden across the whole sector, people who are absolutely unrelated to this business are picking up some of those legacy issues,” Hayes says. “The flow-on impact is that a lot of people are saying to their financial adviser, ‘are you OK?’.

“I think we are in a marketplace where we are going to see a lot more of that ripple effect.”

To help you avoid the traps that cause companies to fall over, we’ve prepared a list of the 25 most prominent corporate collapses in the past 12 months. As the year goes on, the lessons from these disasters are likely to become even more important.

ABC Learning Centres

Date: November 2008
Sector: Childcare
Lesson: ABC Learning founder Eddy Groves had a pretty good little business going in Australia – profitable, fast growing and underpinned by government childcare subsidies. But his forays into the US and British markets distracted Groves from the day-to-day running of the Australian business, and without his scrutiny the low-margin operations started losing money. Eddy’s ambition of creating a global childcare giant was his undoing – had he stayed focused, ABC’s fate could have been very different.

Allco Finance Group

Date: November 2008
Sector: Financial services
Lesson: Like fellow fallen finance groups such as MFS, Allco’s problem was simple – too much debt. Add this to a business model that was insanely complex and you have a recipe for disaster.

Apollo Life Sciences

Date: October 2008
Sector: Biotechnology
Lesson: You have to feel sorry for companies in the biotechnology sector. It takes years of research, product development and trials for these companies to turn a profit, which means they must continuously raise cash to stay alive. The funding freeze has hit the sector particularly hard – no-one wants to be involved in companies with long-term risks. As always, cash is king.

Asset Loan Group

Date: September 2008
Sector: Financial services, property
Lesson: Another company that seemed to believe the good times would last forever. When the credit crisis hit, this small Queensland financier-turned-property-developer began frantically trying to sell assets to repay debt. But as the property market went into freefall, getting a sale across the line took too long, and Asset Loan Group went under. As administrator John Greig said, timing was the company’s biggest problem in the end.

Australian Discount Retail (Crazy Clark’s, Go-Lo, Sam’s Warehouse)

Date: January 2009
Sector: Retail
Lesson: The collapse of Australian Discount Retail’s three cheap-and-cheerful chains was a shock – discount stores generally do well in a recession. But the company’s private equity owners had loaded the company with $201 million of debt, giving ADR little room to move when retail spending slowed. As always, debt kills.

Bill Express

Date: July 2008
Sector: Financial services
Lesson: The collapse of electronics payment provider Bill Express hit the company’s customers – mainly newsagents and small telecommunications providers – very hard. In hindsight, the company’s financials were clearly a mess – despite reporting a profit in every year it was listed (since 2004) the company managed to rack up debts of $180 million by the time it collapsed.


Date: May 2008
Sector: Construction
Lesson: The collapse of New South Wales’s largest homebuilder sent shockwaves through the property sector. The company was squeezed from three angles; demand dried up as the economy tanked, the cost of contractors and tradesman continued to escalate, and the credit markets froze. But Beechwood and the other collapsed home builders were guilty of undercutting each other and destroying margins in the process.

CFK Childcare

Date: November 2008
Sector: Childcare
Lesson: The collapse of ABC Learning sealed CFK’s fate – its attempts to sell its assets became impossible when ABC went under. The lesson from the childcare sector collapses is that apparently cottage industries such as childcare (which had, until 10 years ago, been largely dominated by community groups and single operators) are not always as easy to corporatise as it may appear.

Commander Communications

Date: August 2008
Sector: Telecommunications
Lesson: Technology experts say Commander Communications treated its customers poorly, overcharging them for relatively old technology solutions. That was OK when the company had a strong position in the SME market, but as competition increased, customers turned away and revenue fell.


Date: November 2008
Sector: Digital media
Lesson: Digital media company Destra was always difficult to describe, mainly because it had so many different elements, from digital music businesses through to publishing through to marketing. The speed at which these diverse businesses were cobbled together proved to be the company’s undoing – Destra bought separate companies in the three years before its collapse, with most of the acquisitions funded by debt. In the end it was a case of too much, too fast.

EBS International

Date: July 2008
Sector: Online retail
Lesson: EBS International was better known as EBusiness Supplies and became one of the biggest traders on eBay until its collapse last year. The company’s grow-at-all-costs mentality seemed to have been its undoing – it kept selling more and more goods even as its problems with suppliers and delivery mounted, further compounding its problems and eventually leading to its demise.

Elderslie Finance

Date: July 2008
Sector: Financial services
Lesson: Former Liberal leader John Hewson resigned as chairman of Elderslie just weeks before the company was placed in receivership. The company’s problem was simple – it ran out of cash as investment markets tumbled and fee revenue shrunk. Another example of a business model built for good times but unable to weather the downturn.


Date: September 2008
Sector: Agribusiness
Lesson: Environinvest, which was founded by former Victorian state government minister Roger Prescott, was an unlisted public company that operated agricultural investment schemes, including tree plantations and cattle projects. While the company’s debt and poor cashflow forced it into administration, there were clear issues with management – in correspondence with the company, auditor David Nairn of HLB Mann Judd noted “ambiguous transactions with little documentation” and questioned the timeliness of financial reporting.


Date: December 2009
Sector: Retail
Lesson: EzyDVD is one of those rare birds – a collapsed company that actually found a new buyer, the Franchise Entertainment Group. Poor management seems to be the big problem here. The company reportedly lost $3 million in its last few years of operation and founder Jim Zavos went through two CEOs in quick succession in 2008. Now that the company’s unprofitable stores, warehouse and headquarters have been shut, the new owner should be able to turn the business around.


Date: November 2008
Sector: Infrastructure
Lesson: The collapse of Freightlink, owners of the Adelaide-to-Darwin railway, surprised no-one in the transport and logistics sector. The sheer cost of building the line meant the company had to take on huge borrowings, but revenue never lived up to the company’s over-inflated expectations. Freightlink was doomed to fail.


Date: December 2008
Sector: Manufacturing
Lesson: The collapse of power tool maker Global Machinery Company was a shock, but the reason was clear – Bunnings. When the hardware giant took GMC’s products of its shelves in early 2008, GMC’s sales plummeted and its debt load became difficult to manage. The lesson? If you can’t get on the shelves of the dominant retailer in your sector, you are in trouble.


Date: December 2008
Sector: Retail
Lesson: Luxury shirt brand Herringbone revelled in its image as outfitter to the financial services whiz kids of Martin Place and Collins Street. But as the financial crisis swept through the office towers of Australia, Herringbone’s sales fell by 23% in two months. Luxury goods always struggle in a recession, but Herringbone’s position was made all the more precarious by its debt levels.


Sector: Retail
Date: June 2008
Lesson: As well as the usual problems of mismanagement and too much debt, low-cost jewellery retailer Kleins was guilty of one of retail’s biggest sins – failing to keep up with its consumers. The arrival of costume jewellery chain Diva should have forced Kleins to freshen its product range and chase a younger consumer, but the company simply didn’t move quickly enough. Sales dried up, stock built up, and eventually the doors closed.

Lift Capital

Date: May 2008
Sector: Financial services
Lesson: It was no coincidence that stockbroker and margin lender Lift Capital collapsed shortly after Opes Prime. While the company was tottering because of market conditions, the ripple effects from Opes caused a run by clients, almost immediately condemning the company to administration. The lesson is clear – when one of your competitors goes down, be prepared to feel referred pain.

MFS (aka Octaviar)

Date: September 2008
Sector: Financial services, property, tourism
Lesson: It took MFS the best part of year to die, but the company’s fate was sealed in a few short weeks at the start of 2008 when a billion dollar pile of debt crushed the company as the credit crisis struck. Debt is bad enough, but when your entire business model is built around the idea of borrowing money to buy over-priced assets, you will almost always hit trouble when the business cycle turns.


Date: January 2009
Sector: Automotive retail
Lesson: Midas was put in administration early this year by its high-profiled shareholders, including former Coles boss John Fletcher, although the administrator is hopeful of finding a buyer. Midas’s ill-fated move into LPG conversions (which were suddenly less attractive because of falling petrol prices) didn’t help its cause, but its incredibly acrimonious relationships with franchisees was also a constant distraction for management.

Opes Prime

Date: April 2008
Sector: Financial services
Lesson: In hindsight, the collapse of margin lender Opes Prime was the moment the global financial crisis hit Australian investors. While the Opes mess will probably take years to sort out, at the heart of its problems was poor management. When a key client’s debts exploded, the company appears to have been unwilling or unable to act. But in the end, this brought the entire company – and about 1400 clients – down too.

Raptis Group

Date: February 2009
Sector: Property
Lesson: Jim Raptis was all but wiped in the property crash of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the spectacular boom in Gold Coast property during the last decade allowed him to rebuild. Now, it’s all gone again. Not surprisingly, the problem was the same – Raptis Group was so heavily geared that when the apartment sales dried up, the company was simply unable to pay its financiers and subcontractors.

Storm Financial

Date: January 2009
Sector: Financial services
Lesson: The collapse of financial planning group Storm Financial has been covered in depth, but the key problem was the company’s inability to build a business that could last through a business cycle. The company’s model – and its advice to clients – was based around the bull market, and when financial markets crashed Storm was unable to cut its cost quicker than its revenue was falling. A business must be strong enough to make it through good times and bad.


Date: January 2009
Sector: Retail
Lesson: The management of mobile phone and car audio retailer Strathfield has been a problem for the last few years, with directors, executives and shareholders coming and going at an alarming rate. The revolving management door has not helped the company’s profitability and a disastrous Christmas trading proved to be the final straw. As any good manager knows, stability is crucial to business success.

Lehman collapse: Lloyds and HBOS a disastrous deal hatched in a Mayfair flat

The collapse of Lehman Brothers a year ago had serious ramifications for other banks, not least HBOS, which was forced to seek a merger with Lloyds TSB. At the time the deal looked problematic but it soon turned out to be disastrous for Lloyds, with the Government having to step in to bail it out and its chairman, Sir Victor Blank, eventually stepping down. We take a close look at the merger

    It was in a three-bedroom flat in a plush corner of St James's in Mayfair that HBOS received its last rites as an independent bank. Andy Hornby, chief executive, often stayed in the executive apartment when away from his Yorkshire home but this time the flat would serve an altogether different purpose.

    Hornby was preparing to sell Britain's biggest mortgage lender in a deal that would be struck in the space of 12 hours and reshape the face of UK high street banking forever. The alternative was unthinkable: nationalisation.

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All Hornby's hopes rested on a merger with Lloyds TSB. Conscious that such a huge deal would require utter secrecy, he decided the most private venue for talks was HBOS's Mayfair suite. With him were his finance director, Mike Ellis, and main adviser, Simon Robey of Morgan Stanley. From Lloyds, Eric Daniels, chief executive, arrived with finance director Tim Tookey and his lead adviser from Merrill Lynch, Matthew Greenburgh. It was the middle of the afternoon on September 16, the day after Lehman Brothers' collapse, and HBOS's shares were in a tailspin.

    HBOS had long been considered Britain's most vulnerable lender because of the £198bn mismatch between loans and deposits that made it heavily reliant for funding on the paralysed money markets. Lehman's failure the day before was the final straw. Confidence had evaporated and by Tuesday it was clear the run on the stock would soon become a run on the bank.

    The six began hammering out a plan. Although presented as a merger, Lloyds would take over HBOS at a discount to its book value. In the driving seat, Lloyds took a firm negotiating stance, while "Andy was in a state of panic", one person at the meeting said. "There was a lot of aggression between the two teams. You always get that in a bid but this was compressed into a few moments and the stakes were enormous. Obviously, it got heated."

    Room service was ordered as the hours wore on. At one point, Sir Nick Macpherson, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, arrived to discuss how the Government would honour a pledge to override competition rules made the previous day by the Prime Minister to his friend and Lloyds' chairman, Sir Victor Blank. Satisfied, Macpherson left, leaving the bankers to battle over terms until the early hours.

    By 3am, an indicative price of 285p a share was struck and senior politicians informed but, almost immediately, it became a point of contention. The following morning, HBOS shares continued their dramatic collapse. Fears that the bank would not have the liquidity to meet counter-party demands and collapse before the deal was signed meant that news of the talks was leaked. Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, carried on his blog at 9am that Lloyds had bid "near 300p a share". HBOS shares immediately rallied and the worst fears were allayed.

    Daniels, though, was furious. He had indicated a price, not agreed one, and threatened to pull out altogether. Despite pressure not to renegotiate from politicians and HBOS, Daniels refused to be coerced into the deal. With nationalisation looming, Hornby, now in his office at Bishopsgate, was again reduced to "a state of high anxiety".

    However, Daniels was not going to let the long-sought trophy slip from his grasp. He had first approached Hornby about a merger two months earlier, when HBOS's £4bn emergency rights issue was in jeopardy. Hornby had dismissed it on the grounds that the competition authorities would never approve, just as he had when the two men had broached the subject in the past. But a seed was sown.

    Later, Sir Victor took the issue up with the Prime Minister on a business delegation to Israel, when an understanding was reached that, if necessary, the Government would protect Lloyds from the competition authorities. It was Sir Victor who called Lord Stevenson, the HBOS chairman, on the fateful Tuesday morning. As one insider put it: "He told Dennis, 'We've got the go-head from Gordon Brown on competition. You've got to do something'."

    As time ebbed by on the Wednesday, and aware a deal had to be announced the following morning, Daniels relented and by mid-afternoon returned with a lower offer of 232p a share. In no position to negotiate, a relieved Hornby accepted. So began another sleepless night – this time in the offices of Lloyds' lawyers, Linklaters. About 30 people from each side prepared the documents over "pizza and limp salads" as the office lights blazed. The merger was announced the following morning.

    In the immediate aftermath, with HBOS stabilised, Daniels was hailed as a banking saviour. But nagging doubts slowly surfaced as it became clear Lloyds had not secured any protection from the Government. Lloyds had simply imported HBOS's £198bn funding gap on to its own balance sheet.

    The strategy, it seemed, was to gamble that Lloyds' reputation as a conservative bank would reassure markets. Unfortunately, the reputational influence worked the other way. HBOS, the bigger bank, soon began infecting Lloyds with its bad commercial and mortgage lending. The markets did not recover from the Lehman aftershocks and, on October 13, the UK's largest-ever banking bail-out was launched.

    One banker observed that "Lloyds had a chance to pull out or demand extra Government support" over the weekend that the rescue was devised. Instead, they negotiated a 27pc reduction in the offer, from 0.833 new Lloyds shares for each HBOS share to 0.605. At that price, the deal transferred £15bn of value to Lloyds and it promised another £1.5bn in annual synergies. At the same time, the Government injected £17bn of capital into the combined bank, £5.5bn specifically for Lloyds, for a 43pc stake. Hypnotised by the value transfer, though, Lloyds shareholders voted the deal through.

    That £15bn now looks like poor compensation for the losses incurred. HBOS made a £10.8bn pre-tax loss in 2008 and another £9.5bn loss in the six months to June. The scale of the HBOS's bad lending forced Lloyds to pledge £260bn of "toxic" assets to the taxpayer-backed insurance scheme, which it is now desperately trying to wriggle out of by raising capital independently. Making matters worse are European competition regulators, who are threatening to unpick the deal. In the worst-case scenario, Lloyds, which now has a third of the UK's mortgage and current account markets, could be forced to demerge Halifax.

    Investors are seething at the loss of shareholder value and furious that Lloyds abandoned its reputation as a conservative lender. The merger has already cost Sir Victor the chair and many believe his replacement, Sir Win Bischoff, who joined this week, will shortly arrange Daniels' departure. In time, if the competition regulators allow it, the deal – hatched over a few hours in a Mayfair flat – may prove the doubters wrong. For the moment, though, it is viewed as among the most calamitous ever.

Balfour Beatty to raise £350m to fund acquisition

Engineering and construction group Balfour Beatty is readying a surprise rights issue of as much as £350m.

Balfour Beatty

The company, which is widening the M25 and building the London Olympics Aquatic Centre, is planning to use the capital raised to fund an acquisition.

Bankers at JP Morgan Cazenove and Hoare Govett, now part of Royal Bank of Scotland, have been appointed to run the rights issue, which is expected to be launched within days.

Balfour Beatty is due to drop out of the FTSE 100 at Friday's reshuffle. Shares in the company have risen in the past month but retreated on Wednesday, slipping 7 at 344p.

Bankers have warned institutional investors to brace themselves for a spate of capital raisings over the next few weeks as companies repair battered balance sheets, pay down debt and raise finance for opportunistic acquisitions.

Companies with expansion plans rather than refinancing needs are trying to raise cash before the rush. Balfour Beatty, which has a reputation for running its business with surplus cash, was recently singled out by analysts at Numis as the most attractive contractor because of its strong balance sheet and order book, as well as its diversified income streams. It has a confirmed order book of £12.5bn from international infrastructure companies – about 30pc of its business is in America.

In August Ian Tyler, chief executive, said operating profits were up 30pc to £114m and added he was confident the group would make "good progress in 2009''.

Nearly $160bn (£139bn) has been raised on the public markets in Europe so far this year. Analysts estimate that this could rise to $250bn by the end of the year. RSA Insurance and Barratt Developments are thought to be next to raise capital. RSA has hired Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan Cazenove to ready a potential $500m rights issue to fund acquisitions.

Courtesy By Telegraph

Investors call for action on global warming

More than 180 of world's biggest investors aim to overcome opposition in US and elsewhere to climate change legislation

More than 180 of the world's largest investors, with collective assets of $13tn, put their combined weight behind a passionate call for strong US and international action on global warming in New York today.

"We cannot drag our feet on the issue of global climate change," said Thomas DiNapoli, who heads the $116.5bn New York state pension fund. "I am deeply concerned about the investor risks climate change presents, and the human cost of inaction is unthinkable."

The summit drew together managers of the world's leading investment funds, including those from HSBC, Henderson, Schroders, Société Générale and Scottish Widows, and pensions funds from California public employees to the BBC and Church of England. It was aimed at overcoming entrenched opposition within the US and elsewhere to climate change legislation, by showcasing the scale of investor support for climate change action and the potential for mobilisation of private capital.

"For anybody who suggests that regulating carbon or acting on climate change is impractical, here is appropriate contradiction," said Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, the green investor network that helped organise the conference. However, she warned: "Investors are ready to put money into green tech, but they are not going to act until the government acts and makes clear that the right incentives are in the right place."

The investors' endorsement for action on climate change comes amid signs of a loss of momentum in the final stretch of negotiations towards a deal to tackle global warming in Copenhagen in December. The group warned that failure to act effectively would have disastrous consequences in human and economic terms.

In contrast to inaction, Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the 2006 Stern report on the economics of climate change, said: "Building a low carbon economy creates opportunities for investment in new technologies that promise to transform our society in the same way as ... electricity or railways did in the past." He added: "Unmitigated climate change poses a threat to the global economy."

In their joint statement the investors supported the tougher targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions put forward for negotiation at Copenhagen, including cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries of 25-40% by 2020.The conference was held amid rising frustration that the US Congress and the international negotiations are faltering in the final days before Copenhagen. Stern, in his remarks, said it was time to move away from the "quarrelsome stupid politics" surrounding climate change.

Unemployment hits highest since 1995

Those claiming benefit increased to 1.6 million, the highest since May 1997

Unemployment: Selly Oak Jobcentre in Birmingham

The jobless rate in Britain is nearly 8%. Photograph: David Sillitoe

Unemployment has jumped to its highest level since mid-1995, pushing the jobless rate in Britain up to nearly 8%, official data showed today.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the jobless total on the broad International Labour Office measure rose by 210,000 in the three months to July, taking the total to 2.47 million. That rise was broadly in line with those of recent months and economists said there was little to suggest that the increases in unemployment were slowing.

The narrower claimant count measure, which only includes those claiming unemployment benefit, rose by 24,400 in August to 1.6 million, the highest since May 1997, and a rate of 5%, the worst since September of that year. That increase was also in line with those of the previous two months.

The ONS reported that average earnings growth slowed sharply to just 1.7% in the three months to July versus the same period last year, down from 2.5% in the three months to June.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "There are now over a million people out of work for more than six months, one in three of them under 25. There are no signs of recovery here.

"This is not the time to take risks with policies that could make unemployment worse. It might look rosier in city dealing rooms but out in the real world unemployment is the number one issue."

Catherine Matthews, a partner at licensed insolvency practitioners Tomlinsons, said: "With so many firms folding, the prospects of re-employment are proving increasingly slim for those that have been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs.

"The big problem for Britain's businesses, the reason why so many of them are going bust and laying off staff, is the banks aren't lending. The funding and financial support needed to survive just isn't there. It's what small and medium-sized business owners, and the accountants we work closely with, are saying to us day in, day out."

Economists were concerned about the slowdown in pay growth, which could prevent the economy recovering quickly from recession. Vicky Redwood at Capital Economics said: "As [Bank of England governor] Mervyn King highlighted yesterday, even if the recession is technically over, it will continue to feel like one for many people for a long time yet."

OECD sees 25 million unemployed

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also warned today that the recession could push unemployment across the developed world to a record high.

In its latest employment outlook report, the OECD predicted that the jobless rate across the world's 30 richest countries could come close to hitting 10% by the end of 2010. That would equate to 25 million people having lost their job in the downturn.

The OECD said that 15 million jobs had already been lost since the end of 2007, and called for more government action. "A major risk is that much of this large hike in unemployment becomes structural in nature," the Paris-based group warned.

"This unwelcome phenomenon occurred in a number of OECD countries in past recessions when unemployment remained at a new higher plateau compared with the pre-crisis level even after output returned to potential, and it took many years, if ever, to bring it down again to the pre-crisis level," it added.

Water company complaints fall in UK

Customer complaints fell by nearly 15% last year, the Consumer Council for Water says, but several firms have been warned about poor service

Tap water

Water companies struggled with new billing systems last year. Photograph: Cate Gillon/Getty

Customer complaints to water companies in England and Wales fell last year, although a handful of organisations have been warned about ongoing poor service, the industry's consumer body revealed today.

The Consumer Council for Water said overall complaints to water companies in England and Wales dropped last year by nearly 15%.

With the exception of metering, all major categories of complaints – billing and charges, water and sewerage services – have triggered fewer complaints from consumers.

A few companies had significant improvements in complaint figures as they recovered from problems in previous years, bringing the industry average down. However, other companies saw rising disatisfaction among consumers. Complaints concerning United Utilities rose by more than 36%, and United Utilities, Southern Water, South East Water and South West Water had the highest number of complaints for the number of customers they serve.

Companies showing a drop in complaints included Severn Trent Water with 40% fewer complaints, and Thames Water with nearly 27% fewer complaints on the previous year's figures. Southern Water's complaints dropped by 48% but it still had a high number of complaints compared to other companies.

Other companies continued to receive relatively few complaints, including Yorkshire Water, Wessex Water, Portsmouth Water and Sutton and East Surrey Water.

Dame Yve Buckland, chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: "We have pressed water companies with poor complaint numbers to improve their performance, and it is encouraging to see the response from many companies. For example, complaints to Severn Trent Water and Thames Water both dropped for a second year in a row."

She said customers were beginning to tell the council they could see improvements in service. "Of those who needed to get in touch with their water company last year, 81% told us they were happy with the way the contact was handled. The year before that figure was 71%. At the same time, nine out of 10 customers tell us that they are satisfied with the service provided by their water company."

Buckland added that while the figures were a step in the right direction, it was not good news for all water customers.

"We are still particularly concerned with South East Water's complaint figures. For a smaller company that only provides water, and is not involved in the sewerage side of the business, South East Water's complaint figures are very poor, and they have been for several years," she said.

The water industry trade body, Water UK, said it was "pleased" by the overall downward trend, adding: "The number of complaints investigated is also down.

"The industry dealt successfully with 99.4% of complaints through their own processes. It is also pleasing to see that several companies have recovered well from one-off difficulties linked to new billing systems, which had caused temporary complaint surges in the past."

Jersey beats UK on financial regulation

IMF rates Jersey ahead of UK on compliance with international financial regulation rules

Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey

Jersey's Mont Orgueil Castle. The IMF said Jersey complies with 44 of 49 recommendations to cut financial crime. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Jersey's compliance with international financial regulation and supervision rules is rated ahead of the UK, according to a detailed study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Jersey, which has earned notoriety as a tax haven, complies with 44 of 49 anti-money laundering and financial crime busting recommendations compared with only 36 by the UK.

The IMF's latest assessment has been welcomed by Jersey's financial elite, eager to portray the island as a premier international financial centre rather than a secrecy jurisdiction.

The island has long been seen as an important staging post for washing illicit cash. Sani Abacha, the corrupt former Nigerian leader, made use of a number of bank accounts in Jersey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland when he looted his country's coffers of hundreds of millions of pounds. The Swiss authorities revealed Jersey's role in the scandal rather than the island's own regulators.

Tens of millions of pounds linked to the slush fund of allegedly corrupt BAE arms deals flowed through Jersey accounts, and of the £1bn siphoned illicitly from Angola's state owned oil firm, huge sums went through the country.

But while rating much of Jersey's financial architecture as meeting international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force, IMF investigators did find fault in some of the island's supervisory arrangements.

In particular, it was concerned that Jersey's regulators had limited knowledge of the activities of special purpose vehicles registered on the island. In addition, the IMF stated there was no "official oversight" of the quality of auditors working in Jersey, though it said arrangements are being made to strengthen this area.

The IMF was also concerned with Jersey's reliance on "intermediaries and introducers" undertaking due diligence assessments of clients. The IMF's financial system stability update stated: "The assessment concludes [Jersey] does not comply fully with the international standard." Jersey, it noted, does not agree.

But Geoff Cook, chief executive of Jersey Finance, said: "The IMF has given Jersey's finance industry a ringing endorsement for the quality of its regulation and legislation, the transparency of its regulatory processes and the robustness and resilience of its banking system.

"In addition, the IMF review has reaffirmed a number of features of Jersey's regulatory and supervisory regime, referring to Jersey as one of the pioneers of the Tax Information Exchange Agreements. It highlights that Jersey's financial institutions and trust company businesses are well supervised to counter terrorist financing and money laundering, and that Jersey's finance industry has continued to maintain open and co-operative relationships with regulatory authorities overseas." The IMF said Jersey's financial industry had been affected by the global crisis, but described financial soundness indicators for institutions licensed on the island as "satisfactory". There have been growing concerns over the financial viability of offshore financial centres as the economic downturn takes its toll. A Treasury report, due next month, is expected to warn ministers that they may have to bail out some UK dependent tax havens.

Though Jersey is projecting a budget deficit of as much as £100m, the IMF said: "Stress tests confirm the [Jersey] system is resilient to a range of shocks. However, there is a high concentration of risk and spill-over risk from parent banks."

Critics of offshore finance say evidence suggests money from the island accounts for the majority of all foreign direct investment from repressive regimes such as Djibouti, Libya and Turkmenistan and that it will face huge pressure as a growing international consensus looks set to break open so-called secrecy jurisdictions. But Cook said: "Critics of Jersey's finance industry should ... recognise that the standard of Jersey's financial services regulation and supervisory capabilities are either ahead of or on a par with the regulatory positions of both EU member states and G20 countries."

Barclays sells $12bn of risky assets

• Barclays spins off troublesome loans to Cayman Islands fund

• Former Barclays Capital staff will manage the toxic assets

Two top bankers are leaving Barclays to manage a fund in the Cayman Islands that is buying $12.3bn (£7.47bn) of the bank's most troublesome assets.

The deal was criticised by analysts who questioned its complexity, but it will enable the British bank to report a more stable performance in future. Throughout the financial crisis, Barclays has been forced to defend the way it was pricing and accounting for these troublesome assets and is now hoping to smooth out the effect of the investments on its profits.

The assets will not actually be removed from the bank's balance sheet for regulatory purposes but the accounting treatment will be changed, allowing Barclays to avoid taking further big hits by no longer needing to price its assets at current market values through the convention known as "mark to market".

Under the deal terms , Stephen King and Michael Keeley will set up C12 Capital Management which, while based in New York, will manage the new Cayman Islands-registered fund Protium and buy the assets from Barclays.

The pair are leading a team of 45 traders who are leaving Barclays Capital, the investment banking arm of the bank, to join C12. It will receive an annual management fee of $40m from the bank to look after the loans, which have turned toxic since the credit crunch.

The complexity of the transaction surprised analysts at a time when the regulators had been calling for more clarity in the structure on banks. Others expressed astonishment that the Financial Services Authority had sanctioned such a deal.

Protium will be funded by $450m of working capital provided by two major investors in the US and other unnamed partners, as well as by a $12.6bn 10-year loan from Barclays itself. Analysts believe that the undisclosed backers of Protium should generate a lucrative return on their investment in the fund.

There was a sceptical response from analysts to a conference call with Barclays's finance director, Chris Lucas, who admitted that the bank might need to hold more capital as a result of the deal which in itself would not create a profit or a loss for the bank.

Credit Suisse analysts described the transaction as "a little strange" as Barclays appears to be giving up any benefit from the value of the assets. Ian Gordon, analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, said: "It's being presented as providing a more stable, certain outturn, but you could argue they are giving away the upside but not really being sheltered from much of the downside."

The $12.3bn of assets being sold to Protium forced Barclays to record a £1bn loss in 2008 and include residential mortgage assets, collateralised debt obligations and other complex financial instruments at the heart of the credit crunch.

Analysts had predicted the bank would incur further writedowns on the loans, two-thirds of which are insured by monoline insurers, which became well known during the credit crisis for having provided insurance to some of the complex instruments that are now under water.

The bank will remain exposed to the cash flow on the assets through the $12.3bn 10-year loan from which Barclays expects to make $3.9bn of profit on interest payments. The loan could become impaired if the cash flow of the assets is affected by any falls in value.

Lucas said: "We are not seeking through the transaction to effect a change to our underlying credit-risk profile. But we are restructuring a significant tranche of credit market exposures in a way that we expect will secure more stable risk-adjusted returns for shareholders over time. We also bring in investors with an appetite for the cash flows arising from the assets."

"For Barclays, this represents a good opportunity to create greater predictability of income and economic capital utilisation," Lucas said.

Barclays shares closed at 380p, up 3%.

Make accountants accountable

It is clear from the EU's G20 preparations that its neoliberal ideology perpetuates respect for those who oppose regulation

At a time when numerous EU figures are descending on Dublin as part of efforts to browbeat Irish voters into accepting the Lisbon treaty, one man has been conspicuous by his absence.

Charlie McCreevy, Ireland's representative in the European commission, has barely featured in the media coverage of the campaign ahead of the referendum on 2 October. His apparent willingness to be muzzled could be explained by how he unintentionally helped persuade his compatriots to reject the same treaty last year by admitting that he hadn't bothered to read the document.

McCreevy, whose portfolio covers financial services, has not displayed the same reticence about the global economy. Last weekend, he made the ludicrous suggestion that we shouldn't blame the financial crisis on unregulated capitalism but on the "failure of the education system which rarely encompasses sufficient emphasis on the life skills needed to understand, manage and mitigate personal financial risk".

If McCreevy really thinks that ordinary people should be blamed for Wall Street's woes because they haven't figured out how derivatives work, then it is fortunate that his stint as commissioner will soon come to an end. Sadly, the neoliberal ideology that he espouses (to extremes) won't be leaving Brussels with him, judging by the EU's preparations for the G20 summit in Pittsburgh.

Wrapping up an earlier G20 pow-wow in April this year, Gordon Brown announced the demise of the "Washington consensus", under which key international players had foisted market fundamentalism on the poor. Yet at the beginning of this month, the EU's finance ministers facilitated at least a partial return to the days when the west meddled in the economic and political affairs of Latin America with the sole intention of protecting the profits of multinational firms.

On 1 September, the International Monetary Fund allocated $150m to Honduras, despite the fact that the country's democratically elected government had been toppled in a rightwing coup. Rather than protesting at how the IMF was conferring legitimacy on an illegally installed regime, the EU agreed one day later to endow the fund with $178bn. (It took the IMF another week before it announced that the money wouldn't be released to Tegucigalpa until the fund had decided if it could recognise the new regime).

In his latest stunt, Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to walk away from the Pittsburgh summit if he doesn't secure an agreement on limiting bankers' salaries. This threat will probably come to nothing, just as happened with a similar vow by the French president to leave London if the previous G20 summit didn't go his way. Of course, he's right to insist that the bonus culture is scrapped but this is only one of a range of measures that the EU should be seeking.

Sarkozy's finance minister, Christine Lagarde, is perturbed by a new blueprint for changing the way that assets held by banks are valued that has been drafted with the Pittsburgh summit in mind. Her anger would perhaps be better directed not at the detail of the proposal but at the body behind it: the International Accounting Standards Board. The IASB is a private firm dominated by the accounting industry, banks and multinational companies. Although it was only established in 2001, it sets the standards that listed companies in more than 100 countries must follow. Its activities may sound arcane, yet without clear accounting standards none of us can have any idea what major firms, some of which are more powerful than governments, are up to.

Lagarde's reservations notwithstanding, the EU has been generally supportive of the IASB. Am I the only one struggling to explain why such an untrustworthy and unaccountable group is treated with respect not only by governments but also by some anti-poverty campaigners? Christian Aid and a few like-minded organisations are calling for the G20 to demand that the IASB co-operates in efforts to secure a new system whereby large companies have to report how much tax they pay in each country where they operate.

I fully support the principle of country-by-country reporting and applaud the fight against tax swindling, which, according to Christian Aid, could be depriving poor countries of $160bn per year. But how can we have any confidence in a body like the IASB, stuffed with men (its 15-member board has only one woman) with a deep-rooted aversion to regulation?

In December last year, Prem Sikka, an accounting professor at the university of Essex, wrote: "Accounting has done grievous harm to too many innocent citizens and is central to the current financial crisis. Rather than allowing private interests to make public policies, accounting rules should be made by an independent body representing a plurality of interests."

If the standards of the IASB have been central to causing the crisis, why on earth is it still operating?

'We should be loving (Business) Angels instead', says ACCA small business committee

More support for equity finance and business angels needed

Equity, not debt, holds the key to financing the future of the UK’s small business sector, according to ACCA’s (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) Committee.

In the latest of its quarterly policy briefings, called “Improving SME access to equity finance”, ACCA’s Committee believes that the economic recovery could prove to be business angel's shining moment.

Professor Robin Jarvis, Head of SME Affairs at ACCA, explains: "For years, individual equity investors have been out of the limelight, first hit by the dotcoms bust, then crowded-out by easy credit and now discouraged by the economic climate."

Like the SME Committee, the Government knows that the UK will now have to build new industries without the benefit of easy credit. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) recently finished collecting evidence for the Rowlands review of growth finance, which was launched in June. But the SME Committee says this is unlikely to go far enough.

Professor Robin Jarvis adds:

“The Rowlands Review is looking into ways of supporting established, cash-positive businesses with solid growth potential. There may well be a case for that, but that’s not the kind of businesses that new, innovative industries are built on.”

Instead, the Committee has called for more support for equity finance in general and particularly business angels – the wealthy investors and business mentors popularised by Dragons’ Den. The Committee’s latest paper suggests four priority areas where the government and accountants can make a difference:

• Tax incentives. The Government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) is helpful, but still limited in its potential. The Committee cites France’s solidarity tax exemption as an example of providing tax incentives without falling foul of EU State Aid rules.

• Support for networks. – Networks can help business angels identify investment-ready businesses and leverage the experience and capital of their peers. Subsidising the gate-keeping function of angels is one easy way for Government to make a real difference without spending much.

• Developing investment-readiness – Angel investors are constrained by a lack of opportunities rather than by a lack of funds – the Committee noted that accountants need to build demand for equity finance by helping SMEs understand the benefits of equity and signal their value to potential investors.

• Developing exit routes. – Equity investors don’t make any money from their investment unless a business is sold or goes public. Exits could become more attractive and more numerous if businesses were able to achieve fairer valuations (for instance, by better valuing intangible assets) and investors could be lured with lower levels of capital gains tax.

The Committee, however acknowledges that interventions into the angel investment market are no simple matter. Professor Jarvis adds: “The Committee is concerned that the government does not have enough information on Business Angels to inform policy in this area, so we’re working with BIS to correct that. Our members facilitate a great deal of this type of investment so if anyone knows how that market works, they do.”

Courtesy By ACCA

Copenhagen climate change summit: ACCA’s eight steps to success

Global economic instability could lead to a decline in direct environmental investments and reduce the rigour of future climate change legislation, asserts ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) today in a position paper about the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 - called COP 15.

The report from the global accoutancy body - which has championed sustainability issues in business since 1990 - offers eight recommendations for governments, policy makers and business ahead of the COP15 meeting in December 2009.

Mr Arif Masud Mirza, Head of ACCA Pakistan, says: “The dual challenges of climate and economy have led to a unique opportunity to re-build the global markets with systems sympathetic to climate change. And the trillion dollar bailout of the banking sector proves that governments and businesses around the world can work together quickly to avert disaster.”

ACCA’s report also recommends that governments should respond to the economic conditions by implementing measures that will encourage environmental investments and a more sustainable approach from business.

Mr Mirza adds: “Business has a massive role to play here in how they communicate their commitment to a low carbon economy. ACCA champions the extension of corporate reporting to include the social and environmental aspects of a business and has launched awards for sustainability reporting in Australia and New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the US and Canada.” ACCA is concerned that without a co-ordinated strategy to tackle the financial crisis in a sustainable way, the possibility still exists that the stimulus and recovery packages may lock us into the root causes of climate change. If we follow the model of the banking bailout, we can achieve a sustainable, low carbon, climate resilient future.

Courtesy By ACCA

Signs of recovery based on fragile evidence, says ACCA survey

Claims that the world’s economy is recovering is based on fragile evidence, according to the latest Global Economic Conditions Survey by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).It has repeated its warning that world economic leaders should guard against complacency - and not confuse less panic over the crisis with strong evidence that the recession is over everywhere.ACCA’s third quarter survey of 1,200 finance professionals in 92 countries has shown that while more finance professionals now believe the downturn has ‘bottomed out’ they also believe that a reliable recovery is still unlikely to return before late 2010 - more than a year away. Although business confidence continued to recover in the third quarter of 2009, those who saw improvements in conditions (31%) were still outnumbered by those who had lost confidence (33%). While increasing percentage of members (34%) now believe that global economic conditions are either about to improve or already improving, the emerging consensus, expressed by 44% of respondents, appears to be that current conditions mark the bottom of the downturn and will persist for some time. Nearly 40% are reporting that their organisations’ income is unlikely to change over the next 3 months, with an equal number anticipating further losses of income, while only 22% have seen their prospects improve. The survey also shows that as business incomes continued to decrease in the third quarter of 2009, there was a rise in late payment as well as supplier and customer bankruptcies. Investment in staff fell at an accelerated rate in the third quarter and investment in capital projects, which had previously shown signs of stabilising, seems to be weakening further. The figures also revealed dramatic differences in how finance professionals thought government would react to the situation, with 77% of respondents in Africa and 60% in the Asia-Pacific region expecting increases in public spending, while 68% of Western European respondents expecting spending cuts. Western Europe was the only region in which public spending was, on balance, expected to fall over the next five years.

ACCA to sponsor 2009 Emerging Markets Summit

    Chief executive Helen Brand to participate in panel discussion

      Helen Brand, ACCA chief executive, is to take part in a panel discussion on 'Financing trade with emerging markets' at the forthcoming 2009 Emerging Markets Summit, taking place in London on 17-18 September.

      The event, of which ACCA is a discussion forum sponsor, will see four heads of state and more than 20 chief executives and presidents of global multinationals leading the debate on key changes in international business and growth prospects.

      Among those addressing delegates at the event will be:


  • Lord Mandelson, UK Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

  • Gloria Macapagal, President, Republic of the Philippines

  • Mohamed Ghannouchi, Prime Minister, Republic of Tunisia

  • Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda

  • Augstin Cartens, Minister of Finance, Mexico

  • Catherine Ashton, European Commissioner for External Trade

  • Tony Fernandes, Founder, AirAsia

Courtesy By ACCA

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