Surveys reveal business optimism

BUOYANT businesses in the east of England are more optimistic about the future and looking forward to increasing sales, exports and profits, according to two new surveys.

BUOYANT businesses in the east of England are more optimistic about the future and looking forward to increasing sales, exports and profits, according to two new surveys.

Research for the East of England Development Agency has found many of the region's companies are increasingly optimistic about their future economic prospects, with more believing the overall business situation is set to improve over the next six months.

Meanwhile, a business confidence survey by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and Orange has also found rising confidence in the region.

Their survey revealed that finance professionals in the region are predicting a confidence score of plus 1.1 compared with minus 6.1 six months ago. The monitor forecasts a 1.2% increase in sales in the East of England over the next 12 months and a 0.8% increase in exports, leading to a predicted growth in business turnover of 6.3%.


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Sales predictions have been boosted by better export growth expectations driven by the revival of the European economies, and improved performance in the neighbouring London economy, according to commissioners of the study.

Profits are forecast to accelerate, closing the gap with the rest of the UK, but still 0.4% below the national average.

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However, there is a predicted reduction in capital investment and staff development budgets, while overall employment is predicted to slip, meaning confidence in the east of England is still 4.8 points below the national average.

The EEDA survey, conducted by the CBI on behalf of all regional development agencies, found companies in the region continued to believe they offered a high level of training for their staff, but said shortage of skills was inhibiting their growth, as well as red tape.

The region had one of the highest levels of companies with websites, with businesses using the internet to place and receive orders at one of the highest rates in the UK. Surprisingly, only 8% of companies had research and development links with universities - slightly below the national average.

David Marlow, chief executive of EEDA said he was “encouraged” by the survey's finding that businesses were feeling more optimistic, but found the lack of R&D links with universities “disappointing”.

“Overall, we have seen signs of confidence in the region's economy despite the recent unemployment statistics,” he said.

Pippa Bourne, regional manager at the ICAEW in the east of England, said the figures from their survey should be looked at in context.

“Even though the east of England has experienced a rise in confidence, it is, along with neighbouring East Midlands, the least confident of the UK's regions.”

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