Recently in Emerging Markets Category
Aston Martin has just celebrated both its 100th birthday, and more to the point some much-needed good news on sales. During 2013, the maker of James Bond's car of choice sold around 4200 cars, up around 11% on 2012. Revenues topped £500m. Profits were up by 22% at £85m.
The boost was especially good news as the firm had been losing market share in recent years. It posted a pre-tax loss of almost £25m for 2012 with sales down by 9% to £460m.
I'm still trying to figure out how the Peugeot 308 won the car of the year title instead of the Nissan Qashqai, BMW i3 or Mercedes S class. News that the firm plans to develop the DS brand as a premium brand leave me further scratching my head in disbelief. For that's exactly what the new PSA Peugeot Citroen boss Carlos Tavares is planning to do.
To be fair to Tavares, he has some good ideas in his new "Back in the Race" plan, notably in hacking away at the hugely overblown product portfolio and boosting expansion in the Asian growth markets. The plan aims to achieve a 2% operating margin in the operating division by 2018 and 5% beyond that.
The much-vaunted 'March of the Makers' may well have stumbled last year (manufacturing output actually fell by 0.6% in 2013) but is finally moving again, and at a decent enough rate for now at least. That recovery is getting moving thanks to more stable conditions in the Eurozone - still the UK's biggest trading partner - and rising consumer demand at home.
It is against this better picture that more firms are planning to take on workers, according to a survey by the manufacturing body EEF and accountancy firm BDO. A balance of 31% of manufacturers stated that they planned to take on more staff in the next three months, the highest figure since 2000, with car manufacturing and the electrical sector leading the way. And a balance of 34% of firms stated that they planned to increase investment in the coming quarter, also a record high.
Being ahead of the game in business requires constant innovation. The problem is in being able to stay in front.
The corporate world is replete with businesses which were the radical innovators of their day and which found that success brings with it the need to rapidly expand and then find that more effort is being expended on managing the organisational system than in finding the next great thing.
There is no easy answer to ensuring that you can remain innovative and creative and, perhaps, the trick is to simply to do what many businesses do and wait for others to launch a new product. If they are successful you simply emulate (without copying) what they do.
In the early stages really radical innovations can often attract a premium price; think of the first video or DVD players. To enter the market you need to offer customers something cheaper which will mean that you will operate on reduced profit.
But if customers are offered an alternative that gives them the same (or possibly more) for less money there is a strong incentive to switch. This is dilemma currently facing Apple. Customers are increasingly asking why they should buy an expensive iPhone when much less expensive substitutes are available.
This process usually takes time and there is at least some warning. So, what happens if a competitor offers something that almost literally appears from nowhere and, to use the jargon, is a 'game-changer'?
In the March edition of the Harvard Business Review authors Larry Downes and Paul Nunes considered precisely this scenario; what they call 'Big-Bang Disruption'.
When it comes to exporting there is no doubt that the West Midlands region is still reliant on the European and US markets. Having said that, many local companies are leading the way doing great business further afield and this trend needs to gather pace quickly.
Whilst developed economies are still struggling with financial uncertainty and slow recovery, emerging markets are undergoing rapid growth.
These high growth markets are changing the face of international business - it is the growing economies which offer today's, and more importantly tomorrow's opportunities. With so many millions of potential new customers, low-cost communications, and improving infrastructure, these markets are very appealing to firms looking to expand their operations.
But the time for West Midlands companies to act is now. By waiting too long, businesses will allow competitors to build a presence and market share in those areas, making it more expensive to commit resources and more difficult to compete effectively when they finally decide to take the plunge.
At UKTI we know that striking out into new and unfamiliar markets can be daunting, but many more regional companies could and should be taking advantage of the opportunities these markets offer. That is why we are hosting Export Week (13 -17 May) - a week dedicated to high growth markets.
Export Week is designed to help the region's businesses explore those markets and countries which perhaps aren't so obvious and to show how we can help firms reach them. We have put together a programme of events and activities that will inspire firms to think about exporting to Brazil, China, Singapore and the Middle East to name just a few. Events will take place across the region and offer something for both the novice and experienced exporter - from seminars and master-classes, to networking events. We also have events around some of our strongest developed markets in the USA and the Nordic and Baltic countries.
The past year has been challenging for many of the region's companies, but I strongly believe that almost any firm can export its products and services, whether they are a single-owner operation, an SME, a mid-sized business, or a large corporation.
Come and join UKTI at one of our many regional events during 13-17 May, to find out more about these countries and how we can help your business grow by exploiting the opportunities they offer. I encourage you to seize the challenge - aim high and act now.
You can find out more about Export Week events in the West Midlands at www.exportweek.ukti.gov.uk and follow #exportweek
Hello, it's a pleasure to be here in the West Midlands to lead our UK Trade and Investment team and help support companies in the region to internationalise. We're here to help and want to increase the support we give to companies to help them explore new markets and grow their exports in their current markets.
In the Autumn Statement, UKTI was given an increase in budget of £70 million per year. For the West Midlands, this means an additional seven people in the region supporting business from April, and a significant increase in the size and flexibility of the financial support we can give to exporters.
There is plenty of opportunity to trade, a market for everyone and support to get you there.
However, there's no doubt we face an enormous economic challenge. We've run a trade deficit nearly every year for the last 50 years and only one in five of our companies export, when the European average is one in four. We've got to shift the economy from one that's built on debt, to one that's built on trading and selling our goods overseas. There isn't another option.
In the West Midlands, our goal is to double exports from around £20 billions in 2012, to £40 billions by 2020. If we achieve these demanding targets, we will rebalance our economy and see growth driven by exports, jobs and innovation generated by companies challenged by the rigours of international trade.
I'm confident that the region is up to this challenge. Jaguar Land Rover, Carillion and JCB are brilliant companies, leading the way and breaking into new markets, including China.
A big part of my role will be to get the whole supply chain for these innovative companies to look at where they too can find new markets. West Midlands firms are exporting more to China than any other UK region. In the first nine months of last year, we exceeded the whole of the previous year's exports to China.
While our traditional markets such as Europe and the US have struggled as they, like us, have had to contend with reduced public spending and lack of credit to drive their economies, they still remain important to our export performance.
Further afield, I have seen first hand how UK companies can be successful in the more developed markets such as Australasia. I spent the last four years heading-up our teams in Australia and New Zealand where UK companies of all sizes are winning business and competing with the best international firms. There is plenty of demand for our goods and services out there.
There are also the opportunities provided by countries such as India, China, Brazil, and other fast growing markets such as Russia, Thailand and South Africa. These markets can be more challenging and companies often require additional support to understand the cultural and business environment. Language too can be seen as a barrier to trading with these countries, but there is support available to help companies overcome these difficulties.
We will continue to work hard to secure bigger slices of bigger contracts around the world for UK companies through our High Value Opportunities programme. I worked on one of these opportunities in Australia where the value of contracts to extract gas from Northern Australia are truly enormous and should be accessible to a wide range of companies in the oil and gas sector, but also in IT, catering, legal, finance, health and safety, general engineering and many others.
We will also need to reach into areas of the economy that we have not traditionally worked closely with. This includes getting more medium sized businesses exporting. These businesses are at the heart of our economy and often require different forms of support to grow internationally. We have recently recruited staff to focus on this sector of business and, with the help of partners we are working hard to ensure we can deliver the support they need, when they need it, and in the way that has most impact for their business.
We can support firms of all shapes and sizes - whether they make things or deliver services. We will develop services for those companies who export through the internet, helping them to export more strategically. Leading the way for this type of business is success story Bean2Bed which makes world-class products in the West Midlands and sells them across the globe. One of the company's directors happens to be my next door neighbour so I don't need to go very far to get feedback on the support we give to companies like this.
I would welcome a dialogue with the business community to find out how we can help you be more successful overseas. We need to hear from you so we can ensure we remain focussed on the needs of business.
Challenge me, and UKTI to deliver what you need to grow. I have set up a discussion on the LinkedIn group below. I would really like to hear from you.
Paul Noon, OBE, took up the role of West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment in December 2012. Paul's most recent post was in Sydney, Australia, where he was Director of Trade for Australia and New Zealand for four years. There Paul worked with hundreds of companies, many from the West Midlands, to support them to grow their export businesses in Australasia. He also supported Australian companies to invest in the UK.
Sydney was Paul's fifth overseas posting after Damascus, Syria; Bonn, Germany; Wellington, New Zealand and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has also worked in several departments of the Foreign Office in London.
No one can deny there are plenty of womens' business networking clubs - but how many of these have an international focus?
This matters, because last year, the Federation of Small Businesses published a report which emphasised the importance of female entrepreneurship in helping to grow the economy out of recession. The report highlighted the lessons we can learn from the US where numbers of female-owned businesses are way ahead of our own. According to the same report, 150,000 start-ups would be created each year if women started businesses at the same rate as men.
We know there are currently around 620,000 majority women-owned businesses in the UK - and the good news is that the numbers of these who are exporting are increasing.
In October 2010, the Daily Telegraph reported that at the start of the millennium, only 13% of all the businesses preparing to export and taking part in trade fairs were majority owned, or run by women. But in the two years from 2008 to 2010, this figure almost tripled to 34% of the 25,000 businesses assisted by UKTI each year. So while there is reason to be optimistic, a Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) survey of the same year, estimated only 16% of women-led SME employers exported goods or services outside the UK, a lower figure than the 23% of SME employers overall. This is likely to be because there is likely to be a lower proportion of women-led businesses in the production sector than SMEs generally.
Although times have been difficult in recent years, there are many examples of West Midlands female-led businesses in both services and manufacturing succeeding internationally. Freestyle - the Midlands' biggest digital media and PR company recently opened an office in Paris, while Global Defences - a company specialising in flood defences - recently secured distribution of its range of flood products throughout Thailand.
It's clear we need to do more to encourage and inspire women-led businesses to export more. Which is why we are holding our first export event aimed at female-led businesses on 16th November as part of Export Week. A range of speakers - including Pat Freshwater of Global Defences and Delia Goldsby of Freestyle - will demonstrate how to export successfully. We'll also be highlighting the wide range of support available to help companies along their export journey, such as the new Export Insight Visits (www.embltd.co.uk/ukti) which are a cost effective way for companies new to exporting to explore new markets overseas.
For more details of this and other events taking place as part of Export Week download the free app: www.exportweek.ukti.gov.uk or log on to: www.uktiwestmidlands.eventbrite.co.uk
How to protect your business from cyber attack and understanding how the new Bribery Act works
Two of the comments I hear all too frequently when I'm talking to businesses are: "my IT systems are completely secure" and "there's no point doing business in this or that country unless you're willing to pay a bribe."
Both statements are not only wrong, but in the current business climate, potentially very dangerous.
The UK's deficit on trade in goods grew to £10.1 billion in June, with exports down by 8.4% and imports by 1.2%. The deficit was well in excess of what had been predicted, and was the worst figure since the current run of trade statistics began in 1997.
The £10.1bn deficit in trade in goods was only partially offset by a £5.8bn surplus on services. Moreover, the trade gap for the second quarter (which gives a better picture of trade trends than volatile monthly figures) rose from £7.8bn to £11.2bn. In the three months to June, the overall value of exports fell by 2.7%, while imports were largely stable.
I'm just back from Beijing. Aside from the huge amount of traffic and how many premium cars there were on the roads (Audis everywhere but Jaguars and Range Rovers popping up more and more often), what struck me was the number of small electric cars and bikes that that were quietly zipping around the city.
China leads the world on small electric cars or buggies, and on electric bicycles or e-bikes. Nearly 30 million such bikes will be sold there this year - accounting for most of the global market, with the total e-bike 'pool' in China estimated as high as 120 million. They are cheap and easy to use and make for a good alternative to motorbikes or scooters especially when some 90 Chinese cities have banned the latter over of local pollution fears.