UK firms keen to cut costs, says new survey

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UK chief executives are more likely to implement cost-cutting initiatives across their businesses than their global counterparts, according to new research.

In its latest Global CEO Survey accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) revealed that 83% of company bosses in the UK planned to cut costs in 2013, well above the global average of 77%.

Three quarters also said they anticipated changes to their company's organisational structure over the coming year, in order to reflect opportunities in growth markets.

PwC found that the top three priorities for UK firms was growing one’s customer base; improving operational effectiveness and enhancing customer service.

And while nearly a third of UK chief executives were contemplating cross-border mergers and acquisitions activity, 43% were planning a UK-based deal, compared with a Western European average of just over a quarter.

But only half of UK bosses said they would be prepared to increase research and development capacity in the coming year, versus two-thirds of German and three quarters of French chief executives.

And while reducing costs was an important focus for a lot of firms going forward, PwC said a major challenge for UK businesses was how to generate growth in the future.

“Our experience shows that many recognise the need to be present in fast-growth economies, but end up targeting the UK, US or Western Europe because these markets are more familiar and promise returns on investment within a shorter timeframe,” said Ian Powell, PwC chairman and senior partner.

Powell said that sustainable, longer-term growth “required a longer term view”.

With many chief executives often doing the job for shorter term, the role played by company boards and strategy teams in supporting longer-term change was a vital one, he added.