Mid-sized UK companies report falling economic optimism as they face rising energy prices and supply chain challenges
LONDON, January 11, 2023—(BUSINESS WIRE)–Almost three in four (74%) UK mid-sized business leaders plan to grow in the coming year by increasing or maintaining current headcount, according to JP Morgan’s second annual UK Business Leaders Outlook Outlook today. This is despite less than half (46%) of UK medium-sized business leaders feeling optimistic about the global economy in the coming year, down 20% on 2022—and almost seven in ten (69% ) are preparing for a recession in 2023 more than any other country surveyed in this year’s survey.
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Optimism of the global economy (Graphic: Business Wire)
“We know 2022 was a challenging year for many businesses as they tried to recover from the pandemic amid fierce economic headwinds, and this coming year will bring a number of challenges,” said Catherine Pierre, head of commercial banking, UK, JP Morgan. “However, it is encouraging to see the resilience shown by UK decision-makers by focusing on resilience to the recession and remaining optimistic about growth. It gives hope that UK businesses will be able to weather the coming storm and come out stronger on the other side.”
In a survey of more than 300 senior executives from UK mid-sized companies, many feel confident about what they can control: their own companies. Nearly three in four (73%) business leaders say they are optimistic about their company’s performance, down 7% from 2022, and nearly nine in ten (89%) expect their revenues to increase or remain flat the same in the coming year.
“While optimism for the larger economy may have waned, local decision-makers are still planning for a brighter future with business expected to grow,” said Vis Raghavan, JP Morgan’s chief executive officer for the EMEA region. “British business leaders are pragmatic and have to make strategic decisions with challenging choices given the current cards being dealt and what is expected in the future.”
Energy prices threaten business success
As companies focus on resilience, they remain concerned about threats beyond their control.
The biggest threat: a quarter (25%) of respondents cited energy prices as the biggest external threat to businesses, eclipsing general market volatility (15%), the cost of debt and interest rates (13%) and competitive threats (11%).
Business impact: Seven in ten business leaders concerned about inflationary challenges and rising costs said the increased cost of energy is making it more expensive to do business, far outweighing pressures from rising interest rates (53%) and rising raw material costs (56%).
Consumer influence: With costs rising sharply due to inflation, nearly half (48%) said they have already had to raise prices. Many (68%) raised prices by up to 50%, while just under a quarter (22%) of those who had to raise prices did so between 51% and 75%.
Supply chain challenges lead to business changes
Although concerns about the cost of energy dominate, supply chain issues remain.
Supply chain issues: While some acute supply chain issues linked to the pandemic and Brexit have faded from the headlines, nearly two-thirds (63%) of business leaders say supply chain pressures have worsened in the past year. A similar number (62%) say that increased costs associated with supply chain issues increase the cost of doing business.
Nearshoring: As supply chain concerns worsened over the year, more UK businesses took decisive steps to address it, with almost half (42%) moving production and distribution closer to their key markets, up 12% compared to 2022.
Other adjustments: Almost half (46%) are now allocating more money to cover the rising costs of moving products, up 10% from 2022, and less than one-third (32%) have embarked on strategic stockpiling to address issues.
Rise of ‘S’ in ESG
The range of considerations for business leaders is broad, and the focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) measures remains strong. In fact, social concern about employees and customers now matches concern for environmental issues.
Increased focus on social standards: Social factors such as customer satisfaction, workplace health and safety and data privacy are seen by 56% as important to their business strategy, up 25% from 2022. Now ranked as high as environmental factors (56%) , such as reducing carbon emissions and energy efficiency.
Benefits: The most frequently cited reason for focusing on corporate responsibility was to improve employee retention (52%). Desires to strengthen the company’s position in the community (51%) and to improve marketing and find new customers (49%) were mentioned almost as often.
Business transitions decline as leaders hang on during tough times
The number of executives who do not plan to sell or transfer ownership of their company in the next year increased significantly to 45%, which is 16% more than in 2022.
Plans for the future: Among those considering a full or partial transfer, more than half (56%) want to do so by selling or gifting to family, and 74% expect the transition to be complete within the next two years, up 24% from 2022. .
For more information on the Business Leaders Outlook 2023, visit jpmorgan.com/business-outlook-GBR.
JP Morgan’s Business Leaders Outlook survey was conducted online from 21 November to 8 December 2022. In total, 306 business leaders (CEOs, CFOs, CFOs and owners) from UK medium-sized companies (annual revenues ranging from £20m to £2 ) billion) in various industries participated in the research. The results are within the statistical parameters for validity, and the error rate is +/- 5.6% with a confidence level of 95%.
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JP Morgan UK: Alice Gasson, [email protected]
JP Morgan Commercial Banking: Bentley Weisel, [email protected]