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Barclays Increases Lending Commitment To Small Businesses To £16.5 Billion

Barclays, one of Britain's leading banks for small businesses, today announced a two-pronged plan to enhance its practical support to small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”).

Barclays currently has some £15 billion in lending balances in place with SME customers in the UK market, up six per cent year on year. Recognising the need to support this vital part of the economy, Barclays commits to making at least a further £1.5 billion available to SMEs in 2009, bringing its total commitment to some £16.5 billion by the end of 2009.

At the same time, from today, Barclays will make available its CreditFocus service free of charge to all UK small businesses, whether or not they are a Barclays customer.

CreditFocus provides users with the ability to credit check and be regularly updated on the credit worthiness of up to five customers or suppliers, which helps business owners make decisions on extending credit to their own customers/suppliers. CreditFocus, which was developed in partnership with the credit reference agency Experian, was the winner of the Institute of Financial Services (IFS) Award for Innovation Excellence in 2008. Barclays will completely cover the cost of providing this service to all small businesses.

“Especially during this time of uncertainty, Barclays is committed to lending to and supporting our business customers,” says John Varley, Group Chief Executive. “We have a strong history of working with business owners through economic highs and lows, and that support will continue. Today's commitments are aimed at helping SMEs in the UK cope with the difficult environment.”

Barclays is also working closely with the Government to develop the new Small Business Finance Scheme. Barclays intends to use this scheme early in 2009 to support individual business loans from £1,000 to £1,000,000. It was also the first UK bank to take part in the new European Investment Bank Scheme by providing a £300 million loan earmarked for small and medium businesses.

Steve Cooper, managing director of Local Business for Barclays, says: “Two of the leading causes of business failure are late payments and bad debt. Our CreditFocus service will help all small businesses, whether or not they borrow or bank with Barclays, to get paid and paid in a timely manner.

“Our loan commitment will help keep funds flowing, and we will begin the New Year by promoting the Small Business Finance Scheme. I am proud that our customers will be among the first to benefit from the new European Investment Bank Scheme.”

Businesses wishing to receive CreditFocus should visit www.creditfocus.co.uk.

Notes to editors

Additional services Barclays provides to SME customers include: A choice of small business accounts that they can tailor to their needs and the provision of up to two years free banking to start-ups, subject to remaining in credit. Day to day small business banking support through an award winning team of Business Managers who are available over the telephone for everyday and urgent banking needs during the daytime, evenings and weekends. A support line that customers can use to talk directly to a Barclays lending specialist to discuss additional financing options. Free consultation for small businesses with a local accountant, marketing expert and solicitor to advise on topics such as the best legal status, how to advertise or draft supply contracts. A free nationwide small business seminar and workshop programme. This is designed to help small business owners network and gain practical help on relevant challenges such as marketing, trading online or how to generate more business profits. Approximately 10,000 customers have attended one of Barclays 800 business seminars this year. Business management software that helps small business customers complete their account work quickly and efficiently; support their hiring efforts; help back up their business data securely; and avoid late payment and bad debts. A free 'Business on a Budget' booklet that provides advice on how to beat the downturn and a free Business Healthcheck guide that focuses on the three key areas of cash, profitability and management. About CreditFocus The credit scoring information within CreditFocus is provided by Experian, the UK's leading credit reference agency. Using CreditFocus Barclays customers also have the option of issuing a solicitor's letter to follow-up on late payment. To date, over 120,000 businesses have been credit checked using the service, with the average customer chasing up £3,000 in late payments. A further service enabling unlimited credit checks and solicitor's letters is also available for a small fee. More than half of customers who have used this service have recovered money that was owed. “Small” businesses are defined as those with an annual turnover of up to £1m. SMEs are defined as businesses with an annual turnover of up to £20m. All lending decisions are, of course, subject to customer credit status