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I’m here to launch the 2012 Private Companies survey, a survey we have been producing for 6 years. For the first time, we have included Tasmania and NT in our data which makes the KPMG survey unique.
Nearly half of respondents feel that Australia’s economy is on a downward trend. In particular, Victoria and Tasmania are doing it tough. Sixty-two percent of Victorian participants feel that we are on a downward trend economically. On the flipside NT and WA are much more buoyant and bullish about the economy. Queensland, notwithstanding, is benefitting substantially from the mining boom given it's rich resources, also has some areas doing it pretty tough such as property and construction, tourism and sections of agribusiness.
This year, almost half of respondents did not meet their revenue targets. In fact, roughly a third suffered both a decline in revenue and profit for the year. Quite a negative sign for the economy. This means that over the next 12 months, businesses are refocusing on areas such as overhead management, new and innovative ways of generating revenue, and customer satisfaction, as opposed to prior years when the focus has been on revenue growth and new customers.
Asked about the big issues affecting their business, respondents have told us global uncertainty, flowing onto consumer confidence, and remaining skills shortages. The skills shortages comment varies greatly by state, with NT and WA still remaining at the highest end of this concern.
Participants told us this year that there has been a decline in intention to invest in major projects within their business. Clearly one of the major reasons driving this is the access to capital, and in particular, debt. While 75 percent of participants said they were happy with their banking relationships and not thinking of moving, 47 percent did say that they believe banks are less willing to lend.
Notwithstanding the downbeat economic conditions, surprisingly 46 percent of participants increased their headcount in the last 6 to12 months, and around another third maintained headcount. Even more interesting, is that 42 percent expect to increase their headcount again in the next 6 to 12 months.
Skills shortages are still a concern, albeit not to the same magnitude as last year having reduced from 55 to 45 percent this year. Businesses are also telling us that wage pressure has tempered a little with expectations of salary increases being in the range of 3 to 4 percent in the next 12 months.
Interesting, our participants remain a little cautious of the impact of digital on their business with around a third saying it doesn’t have a major impact on their business. We can say that 65 percent do plan to increase communication channels with customers via digital technologies, this being both websites and applications and mobile technology. All of this begs the question, are businesses being too relaxed? Customers wish to engage with suppliers in different ways, so is this an opportunity for business to align their digital presence with their business strategy?
Survey respondents were a little muted in their views on government. It is fair to say that at a federal level, there needs to be focus, in the views of our survey participants, on infrastructure and taxation reform. Carbon pricing was an area where there was a strong view. Four out of five participants said they think the carbon price will have a negative impact on their business, in fact, be a threat. From a state perspective, there was a cry for a greater reduction of red tape, focus on state tax reform and again greater investment in infrastructure.
Clearly global economy presents great challenges for Australia and the private companies that operate in Australia. Fortunately participants are telling us they continue to have a long-term view and will continue to be innovative, flexible and invest in their business and their people.
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KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International") is a Swiss entity. Member firms of the KPMG network of independent firms are affiliated with KPMG International. KPMG International provides no client services. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm.