Helping small businesses
We are very much open for business, and are working on a range of initiatives to help stimulate demand and support small businesses.
In 2011, we supported the formation of 108,000 new businesses, and the return to health of 1,900 existing businesses. One business we helped through difficult times is The Beauty Works, owned by Nicky Pearson. Following the collapse of other local businesses, Nicky’s company got into serious trouble. She was immediately put in touch with our business turnaround team, which provided support and additional finance. The company pulled through and now boasts a turnover of £5million.
Nicky said “I can honestly say the business would not have been here without the support and advice I received from Pete Tomsett. Barclays saved my business. They have worked with me to nurse the business back to health, even lending me more money. We have emerged as a more dynamic company and I have a five year plan to double the turnover of the company to £10 million.”
Increasing access to finance in Africa
In Africa, Absa has developed a number of products for lower-income customers, including a debit card designed to help those on government benefits gain access to the financial system.
We’re also improving services for people who are currently outside the traditional banking system. This includes mobile phone-based transactions that allow recipients to withdraw cash at an ATM without the need of a card.
The Absa Micro Enterprise Finance unit is dedicated to helping people on low incomes start their own businesses. Community finance officers help customers start their own business with a loan, assist them through the process of credit assessment, then monitor and advise on their repayment schedule.
We collaborate with organisations that have experience of working with some of these vulnerable groups. For example, by working with CARE International UK and Plan UK through our Banking on Change partnership, we will be able to reach up to 400,000 people in remote or deprived areas of Africa, Asia and South America. Our community savings groups across the world help people take control of their own lives, and support each other in setting up small businesses.
Supporting the Eurozone
We continued to help government clients during the difficult conditions the markets experienced in 2011.
We provided strategic advice, including advising the French state on the restructuring of the Dexia Group, the Spanish Government on the valuation of its domestic savings banks, and the Bank of Ireland on a restructuring plan for the banking system.
We raised a total of €10.6bn for European governments in what was arguably the most challenging environment since the establishment of the Eurozone in 1999. We helped bring Iceland back to the capital markets after the completion of its IMF rehabilitation programme. We also managed bond issues for Portugal and Spain, as well as raising €9.8bn for Spanish regions, including Catalunya, Valencia and Andalucia.
UK infrastructure fund
Often infrastructure projects require huge amounts of finance upfront, and in the current economic climate this money is becoming hard to find.
Barclays was one of the first banks to focus on social infrastructure, and we’ve become more active as the sector has matured into a significant asset class. We also launched the first bank-led UK infrastructure debt fund. Open to institutional investors, the initial fund of £500m will invest in social infrastructure, economic infrastructure, renewable energy, electricity transmission and waste-to-energy.
Financing a lower-carbon economy
We’re providing funding and advice for renewable energy companies, through equity, debt, private financing, project finance and research.
Our ‘Cleantech’ initiative offers co-ordinated advice and financing for clients interested in energy efficiency and new clean forms of energy generation. It also supports firms looking to maximise the value of natural resources. We were involved in several innovative transactions during 2011. This includes our work with Aquamarine Power, the first UK marine energy company to secure bank debt finance after we agreed to a £3.4m loan.
This is a sector that has struggled to obtain funding in the past, because many of its projects are still in the testing stage, and have yet to prove their commercial viability. Aquamarine Power’s pioneering ‘Oyster wave power’ technology captures energy in waves close to the shore, and converts it into clean sustainable electricity in an onshore hydro-electric power plant.