UK: Deloitte Monday Briefing: Growth In The Corporate Sector

Last Updated: 20 May 2013
Article by Ian Stewart

* The recession has affected different parts of the economy in different ways. In the UK some sectors, such as government or financial services, have been hard hit.

* Other parts of the economy have done comparatively well.

* The UK labour market, for instance, has proved unexpectedly resilient. Business services, a broad sector, which includes computing, legal services, accounting, management consultancy, engineering and advertising, has posted growth of almost 10% over the last two years. And the UK's largest companies have come through in pretty good shape.

* We have just looked at some of the key financial metrics for the UK's top 350 quoted companies that make up the FTSE350 index. What emerged was a picture of sustained outperformance compared with the broader UK economy driven, in large part, by growth in overseas markets.

* We estimate that FTSE350 companies derive about 55% of their revenues from overseas. With growth outside the UK, especially in emerging markets and the US, far stronger than at home, overseas exposure has provided a vital support for the health of the UK's largest companies.

* FTSE350 companies which derive more than 70% of their revenues from outside the UK have, on average, performed more strongly than their UK-focussed peers in the last five years.

* Over this time turnover for international companies has averaged just over 12% a year, more than twice the rate for companies making more than 70% of their revenues in the UK.

* Growth in hiring by international businesses has averaged 6.4% a year for the last 5 years compared to 1.0% growth in employment by UK-facing businesses. And wages have also increased more quickly among international businesses, averaging 11.2% a year, almost four times as fast as in UK-facing businesses.

* Margins have proved more stable among international companies too. And international firms have raised dividend payments by 70% since 2008, five times faster than UK-facing firms.

* It is, perhaps, a sign of the tough conditions in the UK that large businesses operating here have sharply reduced their borrowing, or gearing, in the last five years. International businesses have kept gearing fairly constant.

* Yet we should not underestimate the resilience of the large businesses which focus on the UK as they faced the severest economic downturn since the 1930s. These companies have managed to grow revenues by a total of 20% in the last five years, they have continued to hire through the financial crisis and the recession and are, today, almost as profitable as their internationally focussed peers. 

* The strong international exposure of large quoted UK corporates has been a source of strength in recent years. But big businesses selling into the UK have come through the financial crisis in pretty good shape too. A widely expected recovery in UK growth, coupled with accelerating activity overseas, points to better times ahead for the UK corporate sector.

MARKETS & NEWS

UK's FTSE 100 ended the week up 1.5%.

Here are some recent news stories that caught our eye as reflecting key economic themes:

KEY THEMES

* The Bank of England upgraded its forecast for UK GDP growth in 2013 to 1.0% from a previous 0.9% estimate, citing a "slow but sustained" recovery
* US consumer sentiment rose in May to its highest level since July 2007, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's survey
* The Japanese economy grew at a faster-than-expected rate of 0.9% in Q1 2013, driven by strong private consumption and export growth
* Ratings agency Fitch upgraded Greece's credit rating by one notch, from CCC to B-, citing progress in cutting its budget deficit and reduced risks of a eurozone break-up
* The Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, appealed to citizens to "put on our best face to foreigners", with the country expecting a record 17 million tourists this year
* The French economy contracted by 0.2% in Q1 2013, officially entering recession
* French president François Hollande called for a united "economic government" in the eurozone, with its own full-time president, budget and harmonised tax system
* Spain recorded its first monthly trade surplus for more than 40 years, with the March surplus driven by a 15% annual fall in imports
* The European Commission said it had carried out "unannounced inspections" at a number of big oil and biofuel companies, regarding possible collusion to fix oil prices
* UK unemployment rose by 15,000 in Q1 2013, with the jobless rate up from 7.7% to 7.8%
* The number of first-time buyers in the UK rose by almost 20% in March from February according to data from the UK Council of Mortgage Lenders
* PC maker Dell reported a 79% fall in net profit in the 3 months to 3rd May, driven by decline in personal computers sales as more consumers shift to smartphones and tablets.
* New car sales in Europe rose for the first time in 18 months in April, helped by strong demand in the UK and by the early Easter break
* India steelmaker Tata Steel announced a $1.6bn writedown on the value of its European assets, citing the weakness of European markets
* The Financial Times website and multiple Twitter accounts belonging to the news organisation were hacked, apparently by a hacker group called the Syrian Electronic Army
* British Gas owner Centrica said that gas use has risen by 18% in the first 4 months of 2013 due to "exceptionally cold weather"
* UK retailer Poundland said that it plans to cut its prices to 97 pence in some stores as a response to the increase in 99 pence shops – small change

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