LONDON (Reuters) – British companies are a bit more optimistic about sales growth this year after a largely flat 2023 but remain wary about increasing investment, according to a survey published on Wednesday.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said 56% of respondents expected turnover to grow over the next 12 months, up from 53% in the previous survey three months ago.
However, only 24% of firms surveyed in November reported an increase in investment over the previous three months with 58% saying they had made no change and 19% reporting a fall.
Finance minister Jeremy Hunt announced incentives for business investment in November as part of his attempts to show voters – who are expected to head to the polls this year – that he can get the economy growing more quickly.
“While it’s likely the UK will avoid a technical recession, these results provide more evidence of a very low growth climate as most SMEs continue to report no improvement to sales, cash flow, or investment,” the BCC’s head of research, David Bharier, said.
A separate survey published earlier on Wednesday by the Institute of Directors showed a reluctance by businesses to invest too.
The BCC survey also showed the first increase since early 2023 in the share of companies expecting to increase prices, which rose to 47% from 41% in the third quarter.
The Bank of England has said it expects to keep interest rates high for “an extended period” in order to squeeze inflation pressure out of the economy.
The BCC survey was based on responses from 5,029 businesses – 91% of them small and medium-sized – polled between Nov. 6 and Nov. 30.
(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by David Milliken)