M&A Chat Room - Talk bout takeovers

Financial services

www.americanexpress.co.uk

American Express is making its international electronics infrastructure available to other companies in the UK - from SMEs to corporations. The business-to-business internet payment service aims to provide a simple, convenient and cost-effective way to initiate payments 24/7 in over 160 foreign currencies. Payments can be initiated at the touch of a button, and tracked all the way to their final destination: transaction details and histories are available online.

www.ezoka.com

UK SMEs can now access financial services advice online via online group purchasing specialist eZoka. Norwich Union Healthcare, Woolwich Independent Financial Services Ltd, Sedgewick Independent Financial Consultants and Millfield will offer eZoka members group pensions, company insurance, life assurance, access to an IFA and online financial planning services, plus a credit evaluation service from Dun & Bradstreet. Those taking out a healthcare scheme (through Norwich Union) or a pension plan (through Millfield, Sedgewick or Woolwich) will, on the anniversary of the policy, receive a rebate of up to 5% of the annual premiums to the company or policyholder.

www.fsa.gov.uk

Publications from the Financial Services Authority are made available on the internet before they are printed in hard copy, so visitors are able to download and read many documents up to a week before they are available on paper.

www.inter-alliance.com

Cofunds and Inter-Alliance Group plc have joined forces to create what they claim is the UK's largest selection of online funds - more than 1,500 from almost 200 fund managers. As well as enabling clients to create customised ISAs, the site offers share dealing, offshore funds, unit trusts and investment trusts. Visitors will also find financial planning services for business, including strategies for growth, stakeholder pensions and employee benefits.

Internet issues

Almost all UK businesses (92%) now use personal computers, workstations or terminals, and more than half of those systems (63%) have web access, according to the first e-commerce survey by the Office for National Statistics. The survey of 9,000 businesses with more than 10 employees, across most of the economy, found that during 2000 sales of nearly £57bn were made over the internet - 2% of total sales in the sectors surveyed.

Most of these online sales were business-to-business. E-commerce sales to individuals and households amounted to less than a fifth of the sales, and had an estimated value of £10bn - but more than £9bn was generated by the financial sector alone.

'The internet is clearly a valuable business tool,' says Geoff Haggart, VP of Europe for Websense Inc, and internet management solutions vendor, adding: 'But at the same time it can be a distraction.'

Almost half the web users contacted in the Websense Web@Work Survey 2001 confessed to personal surfing at work for more than three hours each week. While many admitted to using the net to make searches and brief transactions, more than a fifth (27%) said they used it to watch sporting events. Almost all of those surveyed, a startling 90%, apparently felt the internet can be addictive.

ASP options - Closer to clients

Accountants will be able to offer a personalised cash book accounting service to their clients over the internet with eCash, the first Iris ASP offering from Transaction Technology.

Iris eCash enables clients to record their business transactions online via a link on the accountant's website. The accountant can then transfer the data collected directly into the Iris accounts production package - with substantial time-savings in the production of final accounts, and benefits for practitioner and client alike.

Practitioners also gain the advantage of being able to choose to spread their workload more evenly over the full year - instead of being tied to the year-end.

Having access to an up-to-date view of the clients' books at all times also puts the accountant in a better position to offer business advice, when the opportunity arises, as well as providing clients with a value added service - for a monthly fee.

An interactive chat room dedicated to company mergers and acquisitions has been launched by the technology team at Livingstone Guarantee (a UK M&A boutique).

Deal Chat is part of Deal Arena, a website for groups, private management teams and companies keen to acquire or dispose of a business, or raise venture capital.

The online marketplace enables committed acquirers and vendors to access practical corporate financial advice, share experiences with a wider audience of principals and professionals, or even take the first step towards making an acquisition.

Livingstone hopes the interactive forum of the chat room will promote discussion on 'cutting edge issues' affecting the unquoted mergers and acquisitions sector. Registered users are allocated unique IDs and passwords, which are required for entry.

•   www.dealarena.co.uk

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