Confidence of British exporters now at 10-year low


Export confidence in Britain has hit a ten-year low, business failures are rising and a record number of firms expect to miss their sale targets this year, according to reports to be issued today.

The surveys follow hot on the heels of a warning from the British Chambers of Commerce that manufacturing industry faces a meltdown, and will pile pressure on the Bank of England to cut interest rates again.

Business consultants Dun & Bradstreet reported in its latest quarterly survey that business confidence fell sharply again in the third quarter to its lowest level since the end of 1992 with hopes for increased exports tumbling to their lowest for a decade.

"Worldwide market conditions have converged to contribute to the problems of industry in Britain during 1998," said Mr Philip Mellor, D&B's senior analyst.

But it was not all doom and gloom. "Industry in Britain is in far better shape than it was at the beginning of the decade to move forward again once worldwide and European trading conditions improve," Mr Mellor said.

The survey of 1,500 managing and finance directors was also carried out before an interest rate cut by the Bank of England earlier this month - something which has been high on industrialists' wish list for months.

It showed that, while half of all firms expect decreases in sales, new orders and profits in the future, the other half are expecting increases.

According to accountants KPMG the third quarter saw a 14 per cent increase in business failures compared with the second quarter. KPMG recorded 300 receiverships from July to September.

Meanwhile, the Chartered Institute of Marketing said in its latest survey that many marketing managers now view this year's sales targets as either "unrealistic" or "very challenging".

It said 44 per cent of marketing managers expected to miss their target - the highest level ever. This proportion was the same in manufacturing and in services, indicating the slowdown in the former has now spread to the latter.