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Small business confidence hits 4-year high

Confidence among the UK's small firms has hit the highest point since 2010, with the majority predicting significant growth over the next 12 months and nearly half planning to take on more staff, according to new research.

The annual Sage Business Index, which surveys almost 14,000 SMEs in 18 countries, found British businesses are more optimistic about the prospects for the national economy than their counterparts in Germany and France.

Confidence in the global economy is also at a four-year high, Sage said.

Nearly two-thirds of businesses (63 per cent) expect turnover to grow in the next year, with forecasts of an average increase of 3.5 per cent.

Another 47 per cent anticipate that their headcount will increase, while just six per cent predict a decrease.

Business confidence was highest among those who do business outside their domestic market. Some 40 per cent of small firms currently export, with overseas sales accounting for 20 per cent of turnover. Thirty-nine per cent of these firms reported an increase in exports in the last year, while only 10 per cent saw a decline. Furthermore, half predict that turnover from exports will increase by an average of 3.4 per cent next year.

However, many British exporters still believe they do not receive enough help from the Government, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) saying there should be more financial incentives to crack overseas markets. Only eight per cent were happy with the support on offer to grow in foreign markets.

Brendan Flattery, CEO of Sage UK and Ireland, said: "With the UK economy continuing to go from strength to strength, businesses have been in a buoyant mood in the last 12 months.

"Nearly two-thirds of businesses in the UK expect to see their business grow in the next year. That shows they're feeling very self-assured as the UK economy charges ahead of the rest of Europe.

"It is fair to say we are in a golden age for entrepreneurs. The research suggests most businesses in the UK, regardless of size, have growth firmly on their agenda. But, as only eight per cent of UK firms say they receive the support they need to help grow their exports, it's vitally important that support is there for the UK economy to continue to grow."

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