East Anglia: Business confidence on the increase, says ICAEW/Grant Thornton report
15:37 14 March 2013
CONFIDENCE among senior business professionals across the East of England has increased significantly over the past year, according to a new survey.
The lastest Business Confidence Monitor report, produced by the Institute of Charterered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in conjunction with Grant Thornton, shows a “Confidence Index” reading for the eastern region of 15.7 for the first quarter of 2013.
Confidence in the region has now been on positive territory for four consecutive quarters and is now well up on the index reading of minus 8.2 registered for the first quarter of 2012.
Export business within the East of England is expected to grow by 5.1% over the next 12 months, outpacing domestic sales growth which is expected to increase by 3.6%. Overall, businesses expect turnover to rise over the next year by 3.7%
Gross profits in the region have grown by 4.2% over the last 12 months, comparing favourably with the 2.7% growth rate reported at the same stage a year ago.
However, companies predict an 0.1% decrease in employee headcount over the next 12 months, the weakest employment growth figure since the third quarter of 2011
Pippa Bourne, regional director at ICAEW East England, said: “Whilst the base confidence index and expected rise in exports is really encouraging for the region, the decrease in headcount shows the pressure business is under. The East of England has the lowest public sector employment ratio in the UK so we are proportionally more dependent on the private sector than others. The figures do show that most are still planning for growth and this is how the region will succeed.”
James Brown, practice leader at Grant Thornton’s Ipswich office, added: “This news is encouraging and reflects the cautiously positive tone of our recent annual review of the county’s 100 largest businesses, Suffolk Limited, in the last quarter of 2012.
“The county has proved resilient to recent economic pressures, maintaining its resource base and is in good shape to grasp any emerging opportunities.”
The Business Confidence Monitor is one of the largest quarterly trackers of business confidence in the UK. It is based on the opinions of around 1,000 senior business professionals and is claimed to have proved an accurate forward indicator of GDP growth.