Posted on Monday 21 October 2013 by Ulster Business

Peter Burnside BDO

BDO's Peter Burnside says firms need help to understand their global potential.

Too many medium-sized businesses in Northern Ireland are locked out from the essential sources of growth products and support they need to export and invest abroad, the CBI and BDO said today.

In a new joint UK-wide report from the CBI and BDO titled Go your own way, the Government and private sector are urged to get behind the international ambitions of medium-sized businesses in the region, which are being held back by a lack of access to finance, as they journey from non-exporter to global business.

CBI research has shown that MSBs – catergorised as those with annual turnover between £10m and £500m – could be worth an additional £20bn to the economy if only the UK can unlock this growth.

The CBI and BDO warn a lack of access to export finance could hurt the economic recovery if financial providers, both private and UK Export Finance (UKEF), fail to plug the gap. Only 52 small and medium-sized firms across the UK received direct assistance from UKEF in the last year. The report calls for an ambitious expansion in UKEF support which would aim to directly assist 250 small and medium-sized businesses by 2015.

Nigel Smyth, CBI Northern Ireland Director, said: "There is a disturbing gap in export finance that is shackling the international ambitions of medium-sized businesses and could damage the local and UK economy's long-term prospects.

"Government support has improved, but the reality is that they have not even scratched the surface when it comes to supporting the efforts of medium-sized businesses. UKEF must reach out to far more businesses on the ground."

Despite three quarters (78%) of MSBs expecting to generate more revenue from investment abroad in the next three years, MSBs have little knowledge of the schemes that the Government offers. Two-thirds of MSBs are unaware of UKEF itself, while 69% of SME exporters are not aware of UK Trade and Investment, the Government department charged with helping business succeed in international markets.

Peter Burnside, Managing Partner at BDO Northern Ireland, said: "Local medium sized businesses need help to understand their potential for international success. They need hands on support to help map out the international journey and, importantly, must have access to the right advice and funding to implement their plans.

"Doing business in international markets is no longer just the realm of the region's biggest businesses but their experience and knowledge is key.

"The non-exporter of today can be the global businesses of tomorrow, but only if the Government, big business and finance providers play ball."

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