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Prohibited but possible

Interesting meeting this morning with Fredy Bush, founder and CEO of Xinhua Finance. Fredy's firm is China's biggest, most successful provider of market indices, investor relations services, company ratings and financial news. Xinhua is flourishing in a market where Rupert Murdoch's empire, among others, has failed. "Murdoch was arrogant. You can't be arrogant when doing business in China," says Fredy, who grew up on a farm in the US Midwest. Her philosophy for doing business in China? "Nothing is allowed but everything is possible." Since 1999, Fredy has built up her business through careful, sometimes "nose-to-nose" negotiations with the Chinese government, and via choice joint-ventures with FTSE, PR Newswire and others. Her plan is to keep her Tokyo-listed firm focused on China for the next few years. And then, well, watch your back, Rupert...

Bright idea

Solar-powered street lights that double up as wireless internet transmitters. That's rather useful.

Why the inequality?

In the US, there are 90 female entrepreneurs for every 100 men. In the UK, there are just 46. Why is this and what, if anything, should be done about it? Jonathan Guthrie explores some answers to these questions in an interesting piece in today's FT. Isabella Moore, who recently chaired a Treasury panel on female enterprise, wants to set up a commission promoting better support for women starting their own businesses. On the other hand, Coffee Republic co-founder Sahar Hashemi says "it pisses me off when people blame inequality. Women should just get on with it."

More support or a kick up the backside: what do you reckon?

Small-cap lessons

For the second year running, I've spent two days judging annual reports nominated for the ifsProShare private investor awards. And just like last year, smaller companies have produced more imaginative and engaging reports than their FTSE 100 counterparts. I reckon that there are two reasons for this. First, smaller firms have to work harder at getting noticed by investors. Second, they don't have armies of lawyers and brand police to rip the heart and soul out of their prose. Thoughts?

What can podcasting do for business?

Podcasting – a technology that makes it easy to download audio material and stick it onto your portable music player – is proving wildly popular. More than a million subscriptions to Apple podcasts were snapped up within 48 hours of their launch this summer. And the BBC is said to be stunned by the level of interest in its radio podcasting trial. But does podcasting have any business-to-business uses? Yes, according to the investor relations team at IBM. Visitors to the IR Viewpoint section of the firm's web site have a choice. They can read articles about the future of technology on their computer screens. Or they can download audio presentations on techie topics and listen to them on their iPods. Two out of three visitors are taking the latter option. Companies in Europe are starting to provide investor relations podcasts, too, so analysts can catch up on the latest results presentation on the train home to Farnham. But will they want to? My guess is that most will still prefer to finish off the day's FT. Or use their iPod for something less boring instead.


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