BUSINESSES in the South East have reason to be at their most optimistic since 2011. The average company in the region with a turnover of £20 million or less is expecting to grow revenue by 149 per cent over the next five years, according to new research from Santander. Not only is this is an increase on the 140 per cent five-year growth forecast in 2012, but it is also one of the most optimistic of any region in the UK. Additionally, more than a third of businesses in the area are looking to hire new staff as an immediate priority – the highest in the UK. Gwyn Price, Santander Corporate and Commercial regional director said: "Understandably, many businesses across the South East remain cautious given the current environment. However, our latest growth survey reveals the most optimistic five-year outlook for three years. Figures that indicate firms are increasing efforts to hire new staff are also to be welcomed. "Despite an increase in optimism, we encourage businesses to remain focused on business fundamentals and plan responsibly for future growth. For firms across the South East that have survived the past few years of economic volatility and are well positioned to seize future opportunities, basics such as effective cash flow management, first-rate customer service and long-term strategic planning remain key to ensuring they can realise their ambitions." Nationally, the study revealed UK businesses as a whole are predicting turnover growth of an average 134 per cent in the next five years, equivalent to 18.5 per cent a year, and up considerably from the 88 per cent five-year growth forecast in last year's survey. Despite the increase in optimism, however, UK businesses are still facing stiff challenges with half of those polled reporting they are focussed on "survival" as an immediate priority. This is down from 54% in 2012 but higher than in 2011 when the figure stood at 47%.
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