Business Information: Latest Reports and Business Shorts

BCC upgrades UK growth forecast - but warns on longer-term outlook. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has upgraded its UK GDP growth forecast for the next two years, from 2.6% to 2.7% in 2015, and from 2.4% to 2.6% in 2016. The latest forecast also makes the BCC’s first prediction for UK growth in 2017 - at 2.6%. Exports are also expected to increase by 3.7% in 2015, and 2.6% in 2016 and 2017. Commenting, John Longworth, Director General of the BCC said: “We are upgrading our UK growth forecasts for 2015 and 2016 because businesses up and down the country are doing well - despite international and domestic uncertainty." However, he cautioned: “While 2015 has got off to a good start, there is no room for complacency. The UK is still a long way from achieving the great, sustainable, long-term growth we want to see." To view the BCC's news release go to

UK Small firms are on solid ground. According to a recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), UK small business confidence remains robust. The Small Business Index, a measure of small business confidence in the UK shows confidence levels are firmly in positive territory at +28.7 points - up +11.1 points since last quarter. The positive sentiment is also reflected in rising revenues and profits, with a net balance of 19.5% reporting that revenues grew over the past three months, and a net balance of 12.5% reporting the same for gross profits. The number of businesses who have applied for a loan from their bank and been approved has also increased to 57% compared to 45% 12 months ago. John Allan, National Chairman of the FSB, said: "Our latest results once again paint a positive picture for small businesses with confidence amongst members remaining high, and nearly all the major indicators heading in a positive direction." To view the FSB's news release go to

The CBI's growth indicator shows mild slowdown in the UK. The CBI’s growth indicator, a composite of its manufacturing, distribution and services surveys, reported that UK private-sector growth over the three months to February remained relatively robust, although easing slightly. The mild slowdown was due mainly to the retail sector, while growth picked up a little in the manufacturing sector. However, official data showed that British manufacturing got off to an underwhelming start in 2015, contracting by 0.5% in January. Overall production also fell by 0.2%. Since that leaves manufacturing output 0.2% below its average level over Q4 2014, a substantial contribution to overall GDP growth from the sector in the first quarter is looking unlikely. Survey indicators also show a slight slowing in the pace of growth in the US while the Eurozone remains in technical deflation. To view the CBI's news release go to

Value of IPO deals on London’s junior market surges by 134% year-on-year. Listings on London Stock Exchange’s main market reach 8-year high. Experian has reported that the volume and value of Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) on London’s junior market increased last year as SMEs sought funding for growth. In total, there were 75 IPO transactions on London Stock Exchange’s (LSE) AIM last year worth £2.5 billion - an increase in value of 134% on 2013. Wholesale and Retail was the most active sector, contributing 41% to the overall value of transactions, followed by Manufacturing (34%) and the Information and Communication sector (24%). Experian also found that the volume and value of IPOs on the LSE’s main market also increased last year by 43% (from 40 to 57), while the total value rose to £12 billion - up 12% on the £10.6 billion recorded in 2013. This was the highest level of volume and value recorded on London’s main market since 2007. To view Experian's news release go to

Court fee hike could deter SMEs from taking action against late payment. Hilton Baird has advised that civil court fees for claims over £10,000 have recently increased dramatically and warned that this could deter British SMEs from taking action against late payment. Under the new rules, the fee for issuing a civil claim worth more than £10,000 has increased to 5% of the sum claimed, with a maximum fee set at £10,000. The controversial fee increase, of up to 600% in some cases, affects both specified and unspecified claims. "With late payment a threat to the survival of SMEs, the increased fees are particularly worrying for small businesses who may find the change crippling." To view Hilton Baird's news release go to

CICM UK Credit Managers’ Index shows continued business confidence. The results from the latest Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM) Credit Managers’ Index (CMI) for Q4 2014 indicate that business confidence and the outlook for future growth remain high, as companies continue to seek new and additional lines of credit, evidenced through a sustained appetite for risk. The Index has also shown a significant increase in key areas where credit managers believe they must improve their risk management operations going forward, including a 27% increase in those wanting to gain detailed intelligence on the credit worthiness of customers and a fifth wanting to improve their value with a credit insurer or bank. To view the CICM's news release go to

Mid-sized businesses are the engine house of Europe. According to a new report by Sage working with the Centre for Economic and Business Research, mid-sized businesses are the engine house of Europe. Despite accounting for just 1% of firms in the business economy, the report found that mid-sized enterprises accrue 20% of Europe’s total turnover, generating 18% of Gross Value Added (GVA) and contributing an estimated GVA of €1.03 trillion in 2014 – nearly the equivalent to the total economic output of Spain!  Jayne Archbold, CEO at Sage Enterprise Market Europe, said: “Mid-sized businesses play a critical role in driving economic growth in the UK, and across Europe. . . At a time when many businesses were struggling, this sector grew by 33%. They should be viewed as the unsung heroes of the economy." To view Sage's news release go to

SMEs say large corporate organisations are most likely to make late payments. The latest Close Brothers Business Barometer has reported that late payment problem continues to be an issue for a third of UK SMEs, with as many as a fifth of firms claiming that it is worse now than it was 12 months ago. A further 65% of those negatively affected by late payments say the situation hasn’t improved in the last year. CEO of Close Brothers Invoice Finance, David Thomson, said: “Our findings show that the burden of late payments continues to be a headache for over a third of small businesses, resulting in cash flow difficulties for the majority (65%) and for as many as 15% of firms, it is threatening their ability to trade.” Of those affected by late payments, over half claim that they have had to write off up to 10% of their turnover on average in the last 12 months whilst almost a quarter have had to write off between 10% and 25% of their turnover." To view Close Brother's news release go to

Net loss of UK stores rockets almost threefold. According to PwC research compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC), despite the rate of high street store closures stalling at 16 per day in 2014, close to three times as many shops disappeared compared to 2013. In total, 5,839 outlets closed in 2014 compared to 4,852 openings. This equates to a net reduction of 987 shops - a significant increase from the 371 closures in 2013. Service retail (opticians, travel agents, hairdressers, recruitment agencies) saw a net decline in shops from -299 units in 2013 to -457 in 2014, while charity shops, coffee shops, tobacconists/E-cigarettes, pound shops and betting shops were among those opening the most branches during 2014. Mike Jervis, insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC said: "Despite the benign economy, the net loss of shops has accelerated. The insolvencies of Phones4U, Blockbuster, Albemarle & Bond, and La Senza, a diverse cross-section of the retail market, epitomise these factors." To view PwC's news release go to

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