More than 300 European businesses across Europe – ranging from SMEs to major corporates – took part in the survey, published on 11 November by the European Business Awards and HSBC Commercial Banking. Made up of the continent’s leading businesses which have previously been recognised by the European Business Awards, this is the second biannual survey of the group which provides insights into the performance of European businesses.
The survey also captured renewed confidence, with more than half (52%) of businesses having either fully recovered or seen no negative impact from the recession. The research also found that one quarter of businesses (25%) will primarily look to Western Europe to expand internationally while nearly the same amount (23%) will seek trade opportunities in Eastern Europe – the same two most popular regions identified by businesses six months ago. While a focus on Europe will support development of the region, businesses are potentially missing out on opportunities further afield and should be considering rapid growth areas to trade with.
John Casey, HSBC Head of Commercial Banking, Continental Europe, commented: “Despite their euro zone concerns, businesses are showing resilience, innovation and confidence by entering new markets and launching new products and services in a bid for expansion. Most businesses are still targeting Western and Eastern Europe for trade opportunities but, as HSBC’s recent Trade Connections report has shown, real growth lies by trading internationally. With Europe’s external trade volumes predicted to grow by 77% by 2025, compared to the world average of 73%, it is Europe’s trade with wider international markets which will offer the greatest prospects for growth.
“Businesses must look at how they trade across Europe and consider how to adapt this globally. Germany, for example, has strong trading relationships with France, the Netherlands and the UK, but outside Europe is also fast growing its trade with countries in South America, the Middle East and Asia. All European businesses need to explore their opportunities to grow in not only their domestic market but on an international scale.”
Adrian Tripp, CEO of the European Business Awards, added: “30% of businesses agreed that the availability of skills and talent in Europe, which can be exported internationally, is the biggest opportunity in 2011. Businesses are sitting on a goldmine of talent and it’s imperative to explore how to take this to an international market and build upon trade corridors.”
Government red tape and legislation has dropped from third to sixth place when it comes to the biggest challenges facing European businesses in 2011. Unsurprisingly ‘sovereign debt’ has jumped three places, representing the second most critical challenge faced by businesses this year.