Over half (55%) of UK companies are planning to expand into new markets to access additional customers and take advantage of outsourcing opportunities over the next three years, found research by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
The results of the survey highlight that international trade remains an essential strategic priority. Almost 60% of respondents see opportunities for geographic expansion in the next three years, while three quarters also confirmed they have increased the number of overseas markets products and services over the past three years.
In terms of priorities, companies are favouring a deepening and broadening of their geographic reach. In the past, UK companies saw emerging markets primarily as sources of labour, resources and raw materials, but today the primary reason for companies trading overseas is to access new customers.
A key finding of the research was that bottom-line improvements will help to fund international expansion. In the context of scare liquidity and increasing costs for the foreseeable future, many businesses are focusing on streamlining operations and preserving cash. A priority among respondents in terms of cost- cutting is performance improvement and process innovation. This is likely to involve a key focus on cash flow, cash management systems, working capital optimisation and tighter credit conditions.
The research was carried out among 331 companies across the UK representing a broad range of industries including manufacturing, financial services, professional services, energy, media and information technology. About one half of respondents were from companies with annual revenues below £100m with the remainder above that threshold.
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