UK interest rates stay on hold but Bank of England hints at rise

Pound up as two members of monetary policy committee vote for quarter-point increase

The chances of a May rise in interest rates have increased sharply after two members of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee voted for an immediate hike in borrowing costs.

Sterling rose on foreign exchanges on news that Ian McCafferty and Michael Saunders had backed a quarter-point rise in the bank rate to 0.75%.

One of Gordon Brown’s first moves as chancellor in 1997 was to hand control of interest rates to an independent Bank of England. Previously the cost of borrowing had been decided between the chancellor and the governor of the Bank.

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10 Thursday AM Reads

My digging out of the Nor’easter morning train reads: • The Great Inflation Mystery: The people who set interest rates don’t know what causes inflation, how to measure it, or how to move it up and down (BloombergBusinessWeek) • When Finance Turns Parasitic (Institutional Investor) • Easy Pickings don’t last very long in life, in sports, or markets (Irrelevant…

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Ansarada gets $18M in Series A funding to help companies better prepare for major deals

Australian startup Ansarada, which provides tools for companies preparing for a major transaction, will expand in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Africa after raising an $18 million Series A. The funding was led by Ellerston Capital, with participation from Tempus Partners, Belay Capital and Australian Ethical Investments. A noteworthy detail about the raise is that all advisory fees from the deal will be donated to Ugandan and Nepalese charities through Ansarada’s partnership with Adara Partners, a corporate advisory firm made up of financial services experts who donate their fees to help women and children living in poverty.

Ansarada provides data rooms, or secure virtual spaces that enable companies about to undergo a complex event or transaction, like a merger or fundraising, gather all relevant data and files in one place. This allows the process of performing due diligence, legal compliance, writing contracts and other tasks to go more smoothly and also lets companies track who accesses which documents. Ansarada’s clients have included some of the biggest names in tech and financial services, including Google, VMWare, Sony, Microsoft, Deloitte, PwC and KPMG. The Sydney-based company, which claims up to 80% of deals in Australia happen through its platform, will use its new funding for sales and marketing in its target countries, especially the United States, and on product development.

Other virtual data room providers include Firmex, Intralinks and Merrill Corporation, but Ansarada chief executive officer Sam Riley says one of its competitive advantages is its recently launched Material Information Platform (MIP), which serves as a complement to its data rooms. MIP uses machine learning and natural language processing algorithms trained with a dataset gathered from more than 20,000 transactions to give companies information that can potentially reduce deal risks and improve their ongoing business operations. These include an algorithm that Riley says is “up to 97% accurate by day 21 into an M&A deal at benchmarking a bidder’s behavior, scoring their engagement levels and predicting their likelihood to submit an offer and win.” It also scores the completeness of material information and tracks if risk and compliance requirements are being met.

“We’ve seen thousands of companies find out their biggest risks and opportunities too late in their life cycle, which prevents them from performing better pre-deal and ultimately getting less-than-ideal outcomes when they sell or raise capital,” Riley told TechCrunch in an email. He added “We define readiness as being able to express the value of your company very well and very fast, especially to an investor, advisor, auditor or any party that’s critical to success in your company’s most important events. Companies get control and visibility over their most important information and ensure improvement by scorecarding and assigning accountability to their management teams.”

As one would expect, Ansarada used its own products while raising its Series A.

“We eat our own ice cream, so even using the product for our own capital raise resulted in less time by our management team to prepare for the deal and more time spent executing our strategy,” said Riley. “We are now using the platform to give our board an objective score over how well our vital information and key risks are being managed. Simultaneously we are now ready for the next event on our calendar, which is likely to be a financial audit.”

UK retail sales rise eases pressure on high street

Slight uplift in February is not enough to make up for weak December and January

Tough trading conditions for Britain’s hard-pressed retail sector eased slightly in February, according to official figures showing the first increase in sales in three months.

The Office for National Statistics said retail sales volumes were up by 0.8% last month but that the increase was not enough to make up for the weakness of spending in December and January – two crucial months for the sector.

Related: High street gloom: which chains are feeling the pain?

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