Microsoft discount at Lloyds: Lloyds Bank is offering a discount of nearly 200 on Microsoft office software to companies that open an interest-bearing business account by the end of July. The accounts that qualify for the offer are Business Call, Business Reserve and Premier Interest.

Cash-flow solution: Independent finance company Trade Indemnity-Heller claims to have developed a new interactive disk aimed at providing an “innovative solution to the cash- flow conundrum”. Called Imaginative Solutions Beyond the Balance Sheet, the disk enables “business managers to explore the company’s range of business finance facilities”. Essentially, the disk is a marketing tool to sell the services of the company, but Trade Indemnity-Heller claims to have developed a variety of financing solutions which go beyond the balance sheet. To get a copy of the disk, telephone 0800 858687.

Women play catch-up: Women are fast catching up with men when it comes to pay, at least according to research from the London School of Economics. The hourly earnings of women who work full-time have risen from 66 per cent of men’s earnings in 1974 to 80 per cent between 1990 and 1992. But women who work part-time don’t fare as well as those who are in full-time employment, although they are still experiencing faster earnings growth than men.Yet while women are more highly skilled than they were in the 1970s and are catching up, they still earn less than their male counterparts. Susan Harkness, of the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE, says reasons for this could include the fact that “women may not have the qualifications and personal attributes that can command high wages. But if women are not yet equal, things are improving”, she comments.

Small business bulletin: Significant growth in the number of new company formations is at the expense of fewer people entering self-employment, according to Barclays Bank’s latest Small Business Bulletin. The bulletin indicates that a subsequent slowdown in the number of new start-ups combined with fewer self-employed people could signal a long-term change in the composition of the small business sector. The bulletin also reveals a drop in the number of start-ups in the first quarter of 1996, reflecting a slowdown in the rate of growth in the economy during the past six months.

SMEs tread warily: Small and medium-sized companies have reported a modest improvement in the general business and economic climate for the second successive quarter, according to a survey from venture capitalist 3i. But the quarterly Enterprise Barometer survey shows confidence in this area of the UK economy is rising more slowly than it was two or three years ago. Survey findings also reveal that confidence is more marked in the service sectors than in manufacturing.

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