Invoice finance provider Bibby Financial Services (BFS) has recorded the highest level of first quarter output among its 4,000 invoice finance clients since 2008.
Since January 2008, the commercial lender has tracked turnover data across its client base as part of its quarterly Business Factors Index. The Index tracks five key sectors: manufacturing, construction, transport, wholesale and business services.
The overall level of the Index for Q1 2014 is higher than any previous Q1 period since 2008, suggesting small and medium-sized businesses in the UK enjoyed the strongest level of activity, year-on-year, for six years, says BFS.
The report found manufacturing SMEs not only recorded the highest level of activity for any first quarter, but also the second highest for any quarter going back to the start of the Index.
However, BFS said results among construction clients were not as encouraging, showing the lowest level of activity since the first quarter of 2009, and reflecting on what BFS sees as growing unease about the longevity of government schemes designed to stimulate the sector.
BFS said the first quarter ended with a surge of activity in the sector for the month of March, coinciding with Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that the Help to Buy scheme would remain in place for the rest of the decade.
Findings of the report are released in the wake of the latest net lending figures from the Bank of England, which show that loans to businesses contracted by £500million in the three months leading to February.
According to the Asset Based Finance Association (ABFA), sales turnover for businesses using invoice finance in 2013 increased to £275bn, representing a year-on-year growth of 10 per cent.
David Postings, UK Chief Executive at BFS, said: “The Business Factors Index provides a clear indication of the rate of recovery being felt by UK businesses.
“We have seen already the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has upgraded its forecast for growth in the UK during the first quarter and today’s (29 April) announcement that GDP is up 0.8% for Q1 all reflect the positivity the Index has highlighted.
“The banks obviously provide a vital service to the UK economy but too often businesses are pushing against closed doors when applying for finance.
“At this stage of recovery, we need to nurture and stimulate activity – not prevent it.”