According to thirteen years of research with business owners in Europe, businesses are the most optimistic about their prospects since 2001. However, there is more caution with regard to the prospects for exports which have remained relatively flat for the last four years. These are the findings of Grant Thornton International's Business Owners Survey (IBOS) 2005, released in the thirteenth year the organisation has canvassed the views of Europe's entrepreneurs.
"Caution is very much in evidence regarding exports, where expectations are subdued by the strong euro. In the last few years we have returned to a picture which has not been seen since 1993," comments Andrew Godfrey, Head of International & European Services, Grant Thornton.
The actual number of businesses in the EU that export (44%) has remained unchanged from the 2004 IBOS survey. While this figure is appreciatively higher than the global average which stands at 34%, it remains the lowest on record according to Grant Thornton's research.
"Again, these figures reflect the persistently weak activity in the eurozone and the 20 per cent appreciation of the euro against the dollar in the past two years. The peak year for EU business exporting was 1997 when 64 per cent of companies surveyed said they exported. Since then twenty per cent of businesses have dropped off the scale," said Andrew Godfrey.
Comparing 2005 figures for numbers of companies exporting to those in 1997, different countries have fared very differently. In the leading EU economies, there has been a decrease in number of businesses exporting in each case with Germany seeing a decrease of 21 per cent of companies, France with a decrease of 25 per cent and the UK with a decrease of 12 per cent. The highest decreases have been in Greece where only 43 per cent of companies now say they export compared to 74 per cent eight years ago. Only Poland really bucks the trend** with an increase of 16 per cent in the period, with Spain recording a marginal increase of four per cent.
* The balance figure is the difference between the proportion of businesses indicating an increase and those indicating a decrease.
** Poland figure is for 1998 not 1997
Notes to editors
The Grant Thornton International Business Owners Survey (IBOS) was carried out among over 6,300 owners of medium sized businesses from 24 countries during Autumn 2004. IBOS began in 2003 and builds on the European Business Survey (EBS) which Grant Thornton ran from 1993 to 2002. The research was conducted by Experian Business Strategies Limited. Further information can be found on the website http://www.grantthorntonibos.com
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