Tentative steps

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This time last year corporate bosses were in the depths of despair, wondering just how bad things would get. Twelve months on the situation looks far more optimistic, although recovery for most is still regarded as fragile.

According to a report produced by Ernst & Young in January 2009, only 19 per cent of businesses surveyed said they were looking to take advantage of the recession to pursue new market opportunities. Nearly three-quarters said they were focused on securing the survival of their existing business. By the end of 2009 a further report saw the percentage of those looking to pursue new opportunities this year rise to 34 per cent. However, for just over half of companies, surviving 2010 was still the main challenge.

Further signs for cautious optimism come from Capgemini’s Global Trade Flow Index. Tracking trade by quarter for the 23 biggest players in world trade, the index shows that global trade levels grew by 8.5 per cent during the third quarter of 2009, with the main driver being stabilisation in developed markets. Such increases in global trade offer the promise of growth in domestic markets.

So, if things are looking up, should businesses be looking to invest again? Despite the desire by a number of companies to steal a march, restricted access to capital may well be a constraining factor. Concerns over the possible consequences of a withdrawal of government stimulus packages could also be a sobering factor. But besides these significant considerations, those companies with a clear long term strategy, a deeper understanding of their markets and a clearer view of the risks they face, will be buoyed by these outward signs of growing collective business confidence and will be actively pursuing a more aggressive strategy for 2010.

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