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Global study finds UK SMEs in the doldrums

19 November 2019

A new global business survey has found that UK small firms are the least likely to invest during the remainder of 2019 as the threat of a UK recession in 2020 looms.

The latest Global Business Monitor from Bibby Financial Services and trade credit insurer Euler Hermes has surveyed businesses across 13 regions to investigate the opportunities and threats faced by SMEs worldwide.

The results show that the two biggest concerns are Brexit and the ongoing trade war between the US and China. UK firms are especially gloomy, with 39% of British SMEs saying they expect the economy to worsen over the next year. Only Czech (40%) and Hong Kong (41%) SMEs show a higher degree of pessimism.

UK SMEs are least likely to invest in their businesses during the remainder of 2019, with 29% saying they won't invest compared with just 8% in the United States. Two-thirds of UK SMEs (66%) are most concerned by Brexit. In Ireland, 72% believe that Brexit is the greatest threat and almost two-fifths of Irish SMEs said they are now considering export markets beyond the UK in the wake of Brexit.

"It's evident that UK SMEs are anxious about investing over the coming months as a no-deal Brexit becomes a possibility," said David Postings, global chief executive of Bibby Financial Services. "This is damaging to the economy at a pivotal time for the country. The UK is a highly sentiment-based economy, and it's confidence that fortifies supply-chains, generates business orders and creates jobs. UK and Irish businesses need certainty over tariffs and supplier relationships. Without this, capital investment will continue to be subdued, stifling output even further.

"Further afield, businesses are facing similar challenges as the ongoing trade war between the US and China continues to impact global growth. It's an uncertain time for many businesses across the world. Based on the early warning signs, it's likely that we'll see slowing global growth in 2020 and maybe a recession in the UK."

Ludovic Subran, global chief economist at Euler Hermes, said: "We expect a technical recession at the turn of the year because of excessive contingency stockpiling which will trigger a fall in production in the next six months."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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