Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bosses Look Forward to a Happier New Year

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bosses Look Forward to a Happier New Year

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER KELLNER

LONDON'S business community enters 2002 in buoyant mood. Some of its post-September worries persist,especially among the capital's retailers, but overall confidence levels are on their way back to where they stood before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Over the Christmas period, 276 executives of companies, employing almost 200,000 workers across London, were questioned on behalf of the Evening Standard and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry. These are the key findings: _62 per cent are optimistic "about the economic prospects in the short to medium term" for their own company.

This compares with just 41 per cent in October, when post-terrorism gloom was greatest.

_Asked about prospects for London as a whole, optimists outnumber pessimists by more than four to one. In October, pessimists slightly outnumbered optimists.

_However, many businesses have had to endure a difficult autumn.

Only 32 per cent say they have been operating at full capacity; a year earlier the figure was 62 per cent.

_Even so, the autumn dip was not only shorter but also far shallower than the last real downturn a decade ago.

_Slightly more companies have shed jobs than expanded their workforce in the past three months. But there are signs more jobs will become available this year.

_There are few inflationary pressures in the pipeline. Only 18 per cent of companies expect to raise their prices in the next few months, the lowest figure for two years.

Optimism has recovered across the board - in every sector of London's economy, and among companies large and small. However, despite a strong Christmas when shoppers spent as never before, the capital's retailers remain less cheerful than the managers of other companies. Just 38 per cent of retail executives are optimistic about prospects in 2002 for their own company, compared with 61 per cent of manufacturers, and 78 per cent of firms operating in finance and business services.

As the chart shows, the overall level of confidence slumped by 31 points between late August and late October.

Since then the figure has bounced two-thirds of the way back: up 21 points in 2 months to 62 per cent. …

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