Press release: Tough times for the UK’s small & mid-caps

4th December 2019

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The QCA Small & Mid-Cap Sentiment Index for Q4 2019 shows near-record levels of negativity in many indicators for the 8+ years that the survey has been run.

Raising capital via public equity is seen as the hardest it’s been since 2013. This is for a number of reasons, but additional regulatory pressure has emerged that is deterring investment in less liquid smaller company stocks. This has made a bad situation worse and a pending Brexit for the past three and a half years has created uncertainty and resulted in the withdrawal of capital from the UK. This, combined with the rise of private equity, has left AIM having just 7 IPOs in 2019 (as of end-October). The lowest previous annual figure was 36 in 2009, in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel though: 44% of small and mid-caps in this survey say they are considering raising capital in the next 12 months. 

Key findings

1. Economic outlook is uncertain

  • Small & mid-cap outlook on UK economy is neutral but net optimism is lowest in over six years (since Q1 2013)

2. Business outlook is mixed

  • Companies’ outlook on their own prospects remains positive
  • But, advisors’ net optimism in small and mid-caps is the lowest it’s been since 2012
  • The mean expected turnover growth is 14.4%; positive but at a two-year low

3. Jobs are being created at a lower rate

  • 64% of small & mid-caps expect to increase workforce, although this is the lowest since 2016
  • Mean expected employment growth remains positive at 5.5%, but down from 9.4% 12 months earlier and lowest since 2016
  • Only 28% of advisors think that small & mid-caps will create jobs in the next 12 months – the lowest level since 2012 and a big drop from 6 months earlier (51% in Q2 2019)

4. Raising capital is tough

  • 44% of small & mid-caps are considering raising capital in the next 12 months, up from 37% six months earlier
  • 60% prefer to do this via public equity and 28% via bank finance. These figures have remained largely steady in the past two years
  • But companies view raising capital via public equity as the hardest it’s been since 2013
  • Advisors also view raising capital via public equity as the hardest it’s been since 2013, whilst raising capital via private equity is rated as equal easiest it's been in the history of this survey (back to Q1 2012)

Tim Ward, Chief Executive, QCA:
“At the QCA we emphasise the need for proportionality in policy and regulation for smaller quoted companies. There is a huge disparity in size in the UK’s public equity markets with the largest 7% of companies accounting for 80% of market capitalisation. But small and mid-caps in the UK employ over 3 million people and contribute over £26bn in taxes. This is all at risk if we keep heading in the same direction.

“The new government coming in and the key departments and regulatory bodies – namely HMT and the FCA – have a job to do in 2020 to create policies that recognise the importance of small-caps, policies that cannot wait until perfect conditions arise as turbulence may not settle for a long time.”


-- ENDS --

Notes to editors

See the full survey results

Methodology

  • The QCA/YouGov Small & Mid-Cap Sentiment Survey has been running since 2011. 
  • This is the 23rd wave and is conducted twice yearly. It is an established source of information about the small and mid-sized quoted company sector. 
  • 149 interviews were conducted between 22/10/19 and 18/11/19 by YouGov.
  • 110 from small and mid-cap UK quoted companies, 39 from advisory companies.
  • Methodology: This survey has been conducted using an online interview administered to members and associates of the QCA. An email was sent to the QCA database, inviting them to take part in the survey and providing a link to it. A link to the survey was also circulated by the QCA to their contacts. The sample definition is "small and mid-cap UK quoted companies and advisory companies". The responding sample is weighted by industry to be representative of small and mid-cap UK quoted companies, as derived from London Stock Exchange data, but the advisory companies are not weighted in any way.
  • Note: Where the percentages for a chart are calculated on bases fewer than 40 respondents these must not be reported as they do not represent a wide enough cross-section of the target population to be considered statistically reliable. These questions and figures will be italicised.

Data on AIM IPOs

Data on small and mid-cap employment and tax contributions

About the QCA

The Quoted Companies Alliance is the independent membership organisation that champions the interests of small to mid-size quoted companies. See more information about the QCA here.

Contact

Peter Curtain, Allerton Communications: 02036331730, peter.curtain@allertoncomms.co.uk

Anthony Robinson, Head of Policy & Communications, QCA, 02073978148, anthony.robinson@theqca.com
 

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