Cambridgeshire firms predict profit growth as top 100 business study launches for 2017

Almost two thirds of Cambridgeshire companies are optimistic about future business conditions and expect profits to increase over the next 12 months, says a new survey launched by Mills & Reeve and Grant Thornton.

The poll has been conducted to mark the launch of this year’s ‘Cambridgeshire Limited’, an annual study into the performance of the county’s 100 largest businesses which provides a recognised barometer of the local economy. For the first time this year the Cambridge office of financial and business advisers Grant Thornton will conduct the report in partnership with national law firm Mills & Reeve.

Findings of the poll show that despite ongoing uncertainty surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU, 65% of companies questioned from across the county feel confident about trading conditions going forward. This is underlined by the fact that almost three quarters (72%) said the Brexit decision has had a neutral or even positive impact on their business.

Encouragingly, a further 65% of companies said they expect to see profits rise over the next 12 months, whilst 50% anticipate taking on more employees. The remaining half expect headcount to remain the same.

However, when it comes to investment, only 34% of businesses are planning to make significant capital expenditure during the coming year.

Paul Brown, Director at Grant Thornton’s Cambridge office who is leading this year’s Cambridgeshire Limited study, comments: “Last year’s Cambridgeshire Limited reflected the confidence we are still seeing with the county’s 100 largest firms investing heavily in new equipment, people and acquisitions.

“Our launch poll suggests this investment is generating returns for local businesses as reflected by the predicted profit and staff increases over the next 12 months.  The 2017 Cambridgeshire Limited findings will help to clarify this view and build a detailed picture of the health of the county’s economy. The report will also further inform our ongoing work to help create a more progressive and productive local economy at all levels.”

The poll also looked at Cambridgeshire’s strengths alongside the main challenges faced by local businesses. When asked about the county’s key attributes, 77% of businesses stated Cambridgeshire’s entrepreneurial climate, 73% cited the highly skilled workforce and 53% said the county’s university links.

The main barriers to economic progress were perceived to be Cambridgeshire’s poor road network (80%), inadequate rail links (38%) and skills shortages (31%).

Ian Mather, Partner and head of Mills & Reeve’s Cambridge office, added: “Our county’s businesses clearly benefit from a thriving, innovative business sector, fuelled by a pool of talented, skilled people who can drive future growth. However, challenges remain and our poll suggests that despite ongoing improvements, inadequate infrastructure is still a real concern for local companies.”

Paul Brown concludes: “Interestingly as Brexit moves ever closer, it is perhaps surprising to see such a benign response for the majority of businesses to the impact this will have. This probably reflects the strength of our local economy, as demonstrated by the £1bn profits generated by Cambridgeshire Limited in 2016.”

Now in its sixth year, the Cambridgeshire Limited report looks at key performance indicators for the county’s top 100 companies such as operating profit and employment, plus a breakdown of the financial data by sector. The report also includes a focus on dynamic, high growth businesses across the county.

The 2017 Cambridgeshire Limited results will be unveiled at a breakfast briefing on Thursday 16 November at The Cambridge Belfry Hotel in Cambourne.

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