Small UK firms want government to boost retail investment: survey


Britain's small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) believe the government should do more to encourage members of the public to invest in their businesses, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The government, which has said a lack of bank lending is partly responsible for Britain's slow recovery from the 2008-09 financial crisis, has unveiled a raft of schemes over the last two years aimed at boosting funding for small businesses, but so far they have had muted impact.

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The survey of 207 UK SME chief executives and finance directors, carried out by British investment bank and brokerage Numis and the London Stock Exchange in November, found 81 percent believed the government should do more to encourage retail investment in small- and mid-cap companies.

Oliver Hemsley, chief executive of Numis, said strong demand for recent retail bonds issued by UK companies showed there was access to finance available outside the banking system.

"That is very important because it helps companies grow and it means there is a deep pool of liquidity for companies to access ... when the banks are constrained," Hemsley told Reuters, adding that measures such as reducing taxes associated with investing in equities would also boost funding.

Half of those surveyed said Britain's sluggish economy was having a significant impact on their access to finance and ability to invest for future growth, and 29 percent said it had become more difficult to access finance over the last 12 months.

Looking ahead, 42 percent said they expected their company's investment to be higher next year. Among those who expected it to be lower, the desire to conserve cash, economic uncertainty and constraints on financing were the top reasons given.

"These are the companies that drive growth and jobs and more than anything else we need to find ways to stimulate growth," said Hemsley.

(Editing by David Holmes)