Electronics dispels CBI survey gloom

Electronics dispels CBI survey gloom
Melanie Reynolds Electronics manufacturers are bucking a trend which has seen many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) suffer a fall in orders and output in the last four months. The gloomy findings of a small business survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and chartered accountants Pannell Kerr Forster are not representative of some electronics firms which are seeing their business expand. The survey of 838 manufacturing companies found business confidence low, with 37 per cent of firms reporting a fall in new export orders in the last four months, with a further fall expected. David Milne, managing director of fabless chip company Wolfson Microelectronics, was not surprised by the survey results, but said it did not reflect the situation at Wolfson, which is seeing expansion and investment in people and equipment. “We are moving into a new range of products and are seeing quite strong growth, but I think that’s only because of the state of development that the company is at. It doesn’t really reflect the overall market,” he said. Hampshire-based power supply manufacturer, Celab has also not experienced the downturn revealed in the survey. “We have been very buoyant with a growth in output,” said Barry Wood, Celab chairman. “Perhaps SMEs in the electronics industry are less affected than those outside it.” The pound’s strength was given as one reason for CBI’s gloomy findings, but Wood preferred to see the other side. “The good news for all of us is that our imported materials are cheaper.” The survey also indicated that the investment intentions of some SMEs are at their lowest since October 1992 due mainly to uncertainty over demand. Again this is not evident in the electronics sector. Bookham Technology is another electronics manufacturer which is seeing its business expand rapidly. The optoelectronic component firm has recently completed a ?10m investment in a new semiconductor production line. “The UK is an excellent manufacturing base,” said Dr Andrew Rickman, founder and president of Bookham Technology.


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