Survey: Private sector 'under pressure, but not collapsing'

The private Irish business sector is not running scared of current market conditions, according to a survey of the attitudes and concerns of 250 owner managers of private and family-owned Irish companies.

The survey suggests that the survival of the economy is contingent on a number of supports for this important sector.

The survey, commissioned by KPMG and carried out by RedC was officially launched this morning at a KPMG Breakfast Forum attended by over 300 business people in Dublin.

The majority, 73%, of respondents felt that their businesses are protected against the adverse market conditions which currently exist.

Although the outlook is undeniably less positive than twelve months ago, over 38% are still investing, mainly back into their business, with this being more common among larger businesses.

Almost half (48%) of the businesses surveyed anticipate that their profits will either remain unchanged or increase over the next six months.

Exactly three quarters of respondents stated that there has been no negative impact on their relationship with their bank as a result of the credit crisis, while 77% of owner managers surveyed would still advise family members to start their own businesses.

Colin O'Brien, partner at KPMG, said: "The survey shows us that private and family-owned businesses are under pressure, but are not collapsing.

"As a vital part of the Irish economy, this sector will play a lead role in economic recovery. Critical to this will be that entrepreneurs are actively encouraged and companies have access to sufficient seed capital. This important survey shows that private Irish businesses are confident that the difficulties we currently face are not permanent and many anticipate recovery in the medium term. "

Amongst the challenges faced in this sector is cash flow management with seven out of ten respondents (70%) indicating that customers are taking longer to pay.

The sector also believes that more incentives for business start-ups (41%) and increased availability of seed capital (21%) are the best ways to address the negative impact of the challenges faced in this sector.

Encouragingly, most respondents feel that attitudes towards entrepreneurial activity are as favourable (53%) or more favourable (26%) in Ireland compared to other countries.

Four in ten of those surveyed believe that economic recovery is two years away and a further 33% expect it will be 18 months from now.

Business owners and managers are also positive about Ireland's competitive advantages, with 43% stating that our well-trained workforce will be the biggest boon to our ability to survive the downturn.

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