Mark Burton of Lloyds Bank
The region’s businesses plan to increase investment in the coming year despite confidence falling over the past six months, according to a new report from Lloyds Bank.
The latest Business in Britain report published by Lloyds Bank shows businesses in the South East of England intend to continue investing during 2018, despite business confidence falling.
Business confidence in the South East – which is calculated as an average of respondents’ expected sales, orders and profits over the next six months – dropped to 24% compared with 28% in July 2017.
The net balance of firms looking to grow investment in the next six months, however, rose by six points to 14%.
Meanwhile, the net balance of businesses looking to hire more staff rose only slightly by one point to 9%, compared with July 2017.
The region still faces challenges however, with the share of firms that continue to report difficulties hiring skilled labour remaining relatively high at 47%, despite falling by five points since July 2017.
The net balance of firms expecting to increase wages fell by one point to 18%, suggesting that companies are still taking a cautious approach to pay.
Mark Burton, regional managing director for London and the South East at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Businesses across the South East have been affected by economic and political uncertainty.
“Although this has had an impact on confidence, companies are still keen to increase investment in the first half of next year.
“Firms in the South East are also finding it difficult to secure new employees, and so are pausing hiring plans.
“While Brexit negotiations continue, businesses are cautious about the next phase of the Brexit negotiations but will be watching the process closely while planning their investment expenditure.”
The Business in Britain report, now in its 26th year, gathers the views of more than 1,500 UK companies, predominantly SMEs, and tracks a range of performance and confidence measures, weighing up the percentage of firms that are positive in outlook against those that are negative.
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