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UK Businesses are buying goods and services over the web in increasing numbers. The latest government figures show that 29 per cent of companies bought online in 2003, up 13 per cent from 2002. Broadband has been more widely adopted too: one in four companies had a fast connection by 2003, compared to one in seven the year before.

The figures, part of the government's annual e-commerce survey, show that although big businesses tend to buy more online, smaller companies are adopting new technologies at a much faster rate than their larger cousins.

The report is based on a survey of 12,000 businesses in the UK,excluding those in the financial sector. Overall, 70 per cent of businesses use a personal computer of some kind, and 62 per cent have internet access.

As well as buying more online, businesses are selling more goods in the virtual arena too, although the growth here is very small and seems to be hitting a plateau. In 2002, just four percent of UK companies had an e-tail outlet. By 2003, this had risen to five per cent. This cautious growth is mirrored in the number of businesses with any kind of web presence, up just two per cent to 31 per cent in 2003.

A breakdown of the value of e-commerce in the UK will be published later this month, the government said. ®

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