Gulf Business Confidence Declines in Q4

DUBAI - Business confidence in the Gulf declined slightly in the fourth quarter of 2009, with the UAE, Oman and Bahrain recording a decline in overall confidence level in the fourth quarter, a new survey by HSBC Bank shows. Only Kuwait and Saudi Arabia showed an increase in confidence among businessmen.

By Issac John

Published: Thu 14 Jan 2010, 11:25 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 10:24 AM

The quarterly Gulf Business Confidence Index by the largest international bank in the Middle East fell from 81.4 to 80.2 between the third and fourth quarters of 2009.

In the third quarter, the index rose to 81.4, showing that business confidence in Gulf countries improved to its highest level since October 2008, with executives and junior managers alike showing an increasingly upbeat view about annual sales and profits.

“While this change is small, it masks a more complex regional picture: Saudi Arabia’s index rose marginally from 91.5 to 91.6, while Kuwait’s rose from 83.1 to 84.6,” the bank said in an e-mailed statement.

A score greater than 100 indicates a shift in the positive direction. A score lower than 100 indicates that business confidence is lower than in Q1 2007.

The HSBC Gulf Business Confidence Survey, compiled by YouGov Siraj, is calculated using the results from Q1 2007 as a base, with a score of 100.

A total of 1367 respondents took part in the online survey. Business confidence in the UAE, by contrast, declined from 72.2 to 69.8 in the fourth quarter and remains the least confident in the GCC.

“The main trend of business sentiment over the last three quarters is becoming slowly more confident, although it remains a long way below the exuberant mood of 2007 and early 2008. The first quarter of 2009 registered an Index score of 70.9, so the year has seen a bounce of over 10 points in the Index,” the bank said.

“We are seeing a slight dip in confidence levels quarter on quarter across the board,” said Simon Vaughan Johnson, HSBC’s Head of Commercial Banking for the Mena region.

“But we have not returned to the lows seen earlier in 2009. If I were to characterise the mood of the region’s business people, I would say they are cautiously realistic. 2009 was a difficult year for the GCC economies, and there is a feeling that 2010 will be a year of improvement, tempered by a realism of expectation,” he said.

“Confidence is on the rise in the hydrocarbon-producing states of Saudi, Qatar and Kuwait, while the United Arab Emirate’s score is clearly heavily influenced by Dubai’s well-publicised debt issues,” he added.

The survey reveals that predictions for profitability, turnover, and investment all show slight rise quarter-on-quarter.

Cross-border and international business is also seen growing by 35 per cent of respondents, while 37 per cent of respondents said they would add staff in 2010, compared to 36 per cent in quarter 3.

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