Commercial expert claims business is stabilising

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A TOP commercial director claims small to medium sized businesses are showing signs of stabilisation despite a difficult time, last year.

Roger Galbraith, area director for Lloyds TSB Commercial in the East Midlands and Lincolnshire, made the announcement this week.

Last year was another difficult one for UK SMEs, with the ongoing global economic downturn affecting many business sectors across the country.

However, Mr Galbraith claims the year ended on a slightly more positive note with signs of stabilisation and growth appearing in December.

The monthly Lloyds TSB regional Purchasing Managers’ Index revealed that private sector business activity rose across all the English regions during the last month of 2011, offering some encouragement to the economy in 2012.

The report, which surveys over 1,200 private manufacturing and service sector companies, showed that this growth was driven by a stronger influx of new business to the economy, which in turn contributed to higher employment levels in the majority of English regions.

In the East Midlands new orders rose again in December and at the fastest pace in three months, and employment rose solidly for the fifteenth consecutive month.

While the latest survey showed that firms are moving in the right direction, uncertainty across the Eurozone, which is a key trading area for many UK firms, may be dampening some of the recent optimism seen in the domestic economy.

Wider export markets beyond Europe are however, continuing to prove more resilient, and may offer expansion opportunities for companies that are able to successfully access them.

SME growth and exports are both likely to be key factors in leading the UK economic recovery, according to Mr Galbraith, and the increased output and employment shown in the latest PMI survey offer an encouraging sign that UK firms are remaining strong in the face of Eurozone fears.

Whether firms in the East Midlands and Lincolnshire are able to build upon December’s growth in 2012 will depend partly on whether sufficient progress can be made to resolve the euro crisis and whether businesses are able to act to seize opportunities for investment and growth.

Lloyds TSB Commercial’s latest Business in Britain report also highlighted that 51per cent of companies in the East Midlands and Lincolnshire say they plan to keep investment spending levels unchanged in the first half of this year, and 66per cent of the region’s businesses expect to keep staffing levels as they are for the next six months.

Mr Galbraith said: “While it is understandable that firms are keeping the brakes on investment in what is a volatile economic climate, now is an essential time to act in order to secure growth opportunities against high levels of competition.

“In addition to traditional overdrafts and term loans, there are a range of lending options available to businesses looking to finance expansion, including European Investment Bank and Government-backed Enterprise Finance Guarantee loans.

“We are one of the most active EFG lenders and by the end of September 2011 we had offered EFG loans worth £354 million – nearly 30 per cent of all loans granted through the scheme so far. They can prove ideal for start ups or other companies which may lack the security necessary to secure traditional lending.”

Mr Galbraith and Lloyds TSB is encouraging firms to seek out growth opportunities in 2012 and to take full advantage of the guidance and support available to them from both their lender as well as from business mentoring and development agencies.