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News Round-up: Major backers pull out of Facebook cryptocurrency project, Singapore, Australia start digital economy pact talks, SMEs looking for investment to grow

Here are the week’s main news stories in the world of small business and digital payments:

Mastercard, Visa and eBay exit Facebook's cryptocurrency project

The biggest financial companies recruited by Facebook to launch a global cryptocurrency-based payments network have backed out of the project, threatening to derail an ambitious initiative to remake global finance before it ever gets off the ground. eBay, Mastercard, Stripe and Visa said they were withdrawing from the coalition of companies that had originally signed on to help launch the Libra cryptocurrency. They follow PayPal, which dropped out of the Libra Association last week. The moves came after lawmakers, central bankers and regulators expressed deep concerns about the Libra project.

Singapore, Australia digital economy pact talks begin

Singapore and Australia have kicked off negotiations on a new digital trade pact that aims to drive "greater connectivity" and bilateral economic relations. Trade ministers from both nations have signed off on the scope of the cooperation, which they say encompasses various areas including fintech, digital identity, artificial intelligence and digital-trade enablement. The Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement was first announced in June, marking the start of a "landmark agreement" that will look to tap digital transformation and technology to expand trade and economic ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

UK SMEs seek investment for growth

The growth and funding ambitions of SMEs have strengthened during 2019, despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit negotiations. According to a new report from asset-based lender Independent Growth Finance (IGF), 73 per cent of small businesses expect to see their revenues climb in the next 12 months, compared to 69 per cent at the start of the year. Of those seeking to raise funds to support growth, the average amount has also increased by 22 per cent, or £250,000. Three-quarters of businesses are looking to secure funds in the next 12 months, seeking £1.4 million on average. Most of this spending is earmarked for innovation with investment being poured into technology (45 per cent) and product development (27 per cent).

Ingenico offers WeChat Pay option to Chinese e-commerce retailers

Payment solution provider Ingenico has rolled out a suite of payment methods in China that now supports WeChat Pay. The suite includes the ability to integrate WeChat Official Accounts and, according to the company, “fully caters to the preferences of local consumers” in China, thereby enabling “online businesses to gain better access to one of the world’s most significant online markets”. The company said since more than 80 per cent of local Chinese consumers are “unique mobile users,” the rollout required it to work with WeChat Pay, as well as Alipay and UnionPay.

TSB offers SMEs 25 months of free business banking

TSB is extending its free day-to-day Business Plus Bank Account offer from 18 months to 25 months. At a time when many banks are pulling back support for SMEs, TSB is investing in ways to help businesses across Britain to expand. The key product features of the account are: 25 months free day-to-day banking offer, a simple and transparent tariff after 25 months (if the business maintains an ongoing average balance of £10,000, there is no monthly fee). Businesses also are eligible for a free Square Reader so they can accept Chip and Pin and contactless payments on the go, with the first £1,000 of sales ‘fee free’.

NatWest raises boosts small business loan but by £2.2 billion

NatWest has added £2.2 billion to a Brexit loan pot aimed at supporting small businesses amid Britain’s imminent departure from the EU. The high street lender is upping the size of its Growth Funding programme to £8.2 billion after identifying thousands of smaller firms facing potential disruption with Brexit. NatWest, which is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, has also been running clinics in an attempt to coach smaller businesses.

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News Round-up: Major backers pull out of Facebook cryptocurrency project, Singapore, Australia start digital economy pact talks, SMEs looking for investment to grow
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