Belfast Telegraph

Hi-tech sector 'treading warily'

By Sarah Arnott

Business is booming in the UK's hi-tech manufacturing sector, but concerns over the economic outlook are putting the brakes on investment, according to a survey.

More than three-quarters of respondents to GE's six-monthly High Tech Manufacturing Index are either "fairly" or "very" positive about their current business situation, sending the overall confidence measure up to plus 71, from plus 68 in December. But less than a third (30%) of respondents were similarly positive about the wider economy.

While 118 companies said they were at or near full capacity, nearly half (46%) were not investing to boost production, and a quarter said they had no plans to do so.

Some businesses dismissed capacity constraints as a short-term issue. But 45% blamed economic uncertainty. Skills shortages were also cited in some cases.

"UK hi-tech manufacturers are optimistic but it is not surprising they are being cautious," Mark Elborne, chief executive of GE UK, said.

"They see great opportunities in international markets and growth sectors such as green technologies but have to be careful about these decisions because there is a backdrop of general economic uncertainty."