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U.K. Business Sentiment Plunges With No Snap Recovery in Sight

Lucy Meakin

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. business confidence slumped the most on record last quarter as financial leaders said they see no quick recovery from the coronavirus downturn.

On average, the 104 chief financial officers in Deloitte’s quarterly survey said they expect revenues this year to to be more than a fifth lower than previously anticipated. Most said they do not see demand recovering to pre-pandemic levels until after the second quarter of 2021.

Almost all the CFOs said they were unwilling to take risk onto their balance sheets, although risk appetite remained above levels seen during the financial crisis. They also plan to reduce capital expenditure and hiring, the report said.

“CFOs expect the lockdown to ease in May and June and demand in their own sectors to start recovering later this year,” said Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte. “But there is no expectation of a quick snap back in activity.”

Despite policy action to support corporate financing, the respondents reported the sharpest squeeze in credit conditions since the survey began in 2007. With availability and cost of debt both deteriorating markedly, 30% have used, or intend to access, the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.

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