MANCHESTER QBE Survey Findings_1

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					                                                      PRESS RELEASE

  QBE SURVEY FINDS NORTH WEST SMEs BUOYANT IN THE DOWNTURN


MANCHESTER 11 DECEMBER 2008

Key points
   •   63% of North West SMEs maintained or increased sales in 2008
   •   59% expect to achieve the same result in the coming year
   •   1 in 10, however, face bankruptcy if conditions persist in 2009


Overall sales 2009 and outlook 2009
Despite the challenges posed by the current economic downturn, small and medium sized
enterprises (SMEs) in the North West of England have reported a sturdy performance in
the past year. 63% of SMEs in the region have seen either increased or flat sales during
2008 and the outlook for 2009 also looks promising, with just under two thirds of the region
expecting to maintain or increase sales in the coming year.


The QBE Business Sentiment Survey
QBE, one of the UK’s largest insurers of business risks, undertook the survey of SMEs in
the North West during November 2008. The data which were gathered and analysed by
independent survey company, The Survey Shop, identified a mixed picture of caution in
the SME sector, but positive approaches for addressing the difficulties.


Challenging conditions
Although the current difficult conditions continue to pose a risk to SMEs in the UK, 74% of
businesses in the region will not face extreme difficulty or the risk of insolvency should the
recession continue for another twelve months. However, around one in ten (12%) North
West-based SMEs say they will find conditions either very or extremely difficult to the point
that they would be unlikely to survive if they persist for another 12 months.


Just under two thirds (61%) of SMEs in the North West believe these are the most
challenging economic conditions they have ever faced.
                                                      PRESS RELEASE
Innovative response to economic downturn
In response to the current downturn, SMEs in the North West are active in developing
ways to mitigate the problems. Key among most businesses’ strategy is to grow customers
and markets and as such 41% of North West-based SMEs are likely to increase their use
of sales and marketing in 2009 to achieve this. A further third of SMEs in the region have
reduced fixed costs in order to ease current business issues.


Part of their strategy encompasses an increased utilisation of advisors and insurers with
67% of respondents expecting to use accountants in 2009, which is a significant jump from
the 29% that actually used their services in 2008. This trend was particularly marked in the
uptake in SMEs turning to insurers or insurance brokers with 43% expecting to use their
services in 2009 up from only 14% during 2008. This move, perhaps reflects growing
concern about the risks that business is likely to encounter as it moves through the
recession.


Antony Broome, Commercial Manager at QBE’s Manchester office, commented:
“Despite the pressure on UK business in the downturn, it is encouraging to see that North
Western SMEs are keen to implement measures and seek professional advice to help
mitigate business issues and concerns. Similarly, with conditions as challenging as they
currently are for the SME sector, it is certainly impressive that such a large proportion of
SMEs in the North West have not only maintained sales but, in some cases, increased
them.”


Extracts from the survey can be found at:
http://www.qbeeurope.com/businesssentimentsurvey.pdf


                                          < Ends >
For further information please contact:

Henny Breakwell, Haggie Financial
tel: + 44 20 7417 8989; email Henrietta.Breakwell@haggie.co.uk
Samantha Whiteley, Haggie Financial
tel+ 44 20 7417 8989; email samantha.whiteley@haggie.co.uk

Helena Christopher, QBE European Operations
Tel: +44 20 7105 4431; email helena.christopher@uk.qbe.com
                                                     PRESS RELEASE
Notes to editors

About the QBE Business Sentiment Survey

Data were collected by The Survey Shop between 13th - 26th November 2008. A total of
410 interviews were conducted by telephone using quota sampling. Respondents were
qualified as owners, managers and decision-makers, and the data are representative of
UK SMEs.

About QBE in Manchester

QBE’s Manchester operation employs 26 staff and has had a presence in Manchester
since 1988. Since its expansion in 2008, it has increased its product offering to include,
liability, commercial motor, commercial property, professional indemnity and trade credit
insurance. The team in Manchester supports businesses located in the North West

QBE’s Senior Underwriting team in Manchester

Antony Broome leads QBE’s Manchester operation and has been active in the
Manchester insurance market since 1989 when he joined QBE.

Anna Spink, Senior Property Underwriter, previously with Affiliated FM and Chubb
Insurance, has 20 years of experience in the regional insurance market.

Joanne McCulloch, Senior Motor Underwriter, has 15 years of experience in the
Manchester insurance market, most recently with Brit Insurance,

Rob Moores, Senior Casualty Underwriter, has been with QBE’s Manchester office for
over a decade and has been in the Manchester market for 23 years.

David Semple, Senior Underwriter for trade credit who joined QBE in 2007.

QBE across the UK

Under the leadership of Managing Director, Terry Whittaker, QBE operates seven UK
regional underwriting centres – Birmingham, Bristol, Chelmsford, Glasgow, Leeds
Manchester, Stafford. Each centre offers market leading products across the full spectrum
of property, casualty, professional indemnity, trade credit, and motor insurance on both a
combined and a standalone basis.


QBE Globally
QBE Insurance Group is. Standard & Poor’s ‘A+’ rated and is one of the world's leading
international insurers and reinsurers, headquartered in Sydney, Australia. We operate out
of 45 countries across the globe, with a presence in all key insurance markets and are lead
underwriters within our chosen markets, setting rates and conditions. For the year ended
31 December 2007, the company underwrote gross written premium totaling £5,188 million
and held shareholders’ funds of £3,746 million.

				
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