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Europe — Business confidence low but on the up

14 October 2010

The latest Business Optimism Index, published by workplace solutions provider Regus, reveals that confidence levels in all Western European countries except Spain have seen a rise, accompanied by a net positive proportion of companies intending to employ more people in the coming months. Even in Spain, the employment indicator remains positive, presumably indicating the recognition of a need for excellent staff to generate business growth.

in the UK companies' are less convinced than companies overseas about the rate of economy recovery: over half of UK companies do not expect economic recovery to advance until the second half of 2011. Only 6.6% think it is already underway.

The pressure to cut costs among UK larger companies seems especially strong: 66.9% of companies with 250+ employees will reduce overheads in 2011, significantly higher than the global average of 45%. Over one-fifth of large companies intend to cut staff, more than twice the global average of 9%.

53.2% of ICT companies in the UK intend to add staff in 2011, a reflection of the fact that, in a sector where many staff work on short-term contracts, firms can add or reduce staff numbers relatively easily.

In France, companies have been hit hard by the fragility of the global economy. More than six out of ten companies (63.8%) have seen revenues stay flat or fall during the past 12 months. 69.8% have seen profits stay flat or fall.

The French are less optimistic than the global average: 60.8% expect their revenues to rise, as opposed to 69% of companies globally.

There seems to be a feeling among French companies that they are burdened with dead weight. Almost a quarter (23.7%) want to cut staff (the global average is 9%) and 60.6% want to cut overheads.

In Germany, companies have emerged from recession in good spirits. Almost three-quarters (74.1%) think they will see increased revenues in the next 12 months.
Germany's mighty manufacturing and production sector is especially optimistic: 90.5% of companies expect their revenues to rise in the next 12 months.

37.2% of German businesses think economic recovery in their country is already underway, whereas only 19% of companies globally think this.

German companies demonstrate the greatest ability to translate revenue growth over the last 12 months into profits growth, with the number reporting profits growth (37.2%) just less than 1%age point lower than the number reporting revenue growth (38.1%).

In The Netherlands, companies are not convinced that economic recovery has begun, even though almost four out of ten (39.3%) have increased their revenues in the past 12 months, only 14.1% think that recovery is underway.

33.3% of Dutch companies think economic recovery in the Netherlands will advance in the first half of 2011; 38.5% think it will not advance until the second half of 2011.

In contrast to the global figures, larger Dutch companies have underperformed smaller ones: just 30.8% of companies with 250+ employees report revenue rises, compared with 40.5% of companies with 0-49 staff. Only 23.2% of larger Dutch companies achieved rising profits, compared with 36.9% of smaller ones.

In Belgium, companies are slightly less likely than the global average to have seen profits (36%, compared with 38%) and revenues (40%, compared with 44%) rise. But large Belgian companies have fared well: 60% report rising profits in the past 12 months, and 57% report rising revenues.

Belgian companies are among the least optimistic companies in the world about the next 12 months: only 58% expect revenue to rise, compared with 69% globally.
In a country already suffering high structural unemployment,9 only one-third (33%) of Belgian companies expect to add staff in 2011, less than the global average and the lowest%age among the major economies surveyed.

In Spain, companies paint a gloomy picture of the past 12 months. They are the least likely of any of the major economies surveyed to report good news: just 29.7% have seen revenues rise, and just 25.8% have seen profits rise.

Only around half of Spanish companies (51.6%) expect revenues to rise over the next 12 months.

Companies' future outlook on staffing are unlikely to help Spain's high unemployment figures: 41.2% of Spanish companies with 250+ employees plan to cut staff. Overall, four out of ten (39.4%) plan to add staff next year, lower than the global average.

To read the full survey please click here



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