There is growing optimism among companies in Northern Ireland about the economic outlook for 2010, according to an international business survey.
The feel-good factor among businesses was still in minus figures, making business people here among the least optimistic in the UK, the Grant Thornton international business report 2010 survey found.
However, business people in Northern Ireland were significantly cheerier than their counterparts in the Republic.
Most firms expected revenues to grow or at least stay the same in 2010, compared to just 27% last year. However, profit expectations were weak. Only one fifth of those surveyed in Northern Ireland thought revenues would fall, compared to 43% who were expecting a fall last year.
Trevor Blayney, managing partner of Grant Thornton, said: “Overall, Northern Ireland businesses responded well to the economic downturn in comparison with the Republic of Ireland and other UK regions.
“Business people have made the hard decisions, adjusted their costs relative to revenue and this shows a big improvement from the 2009 survey. While there is a clear upturn, it is expected that it will take time to flow through to profitability.”
Mr Blayney added: “According to our survey, local businesses are expecting the recovery to gather pace as the year progresses — 40% of Northern Ireland privately held businesses expect to see an upturn in the second half of 2010 while 22% expect an upturn in the first half of 2010.
“This is an important signal of improved business confidence and many businesses should now focus on strategies to exploit export opportunities and increase profits, revenue and market share while looking for ways to optimise cash control.”
Businesses were also prioritising the skills of their workforce in preparing for an upturn, the survey found.