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UBS SME barometer: Large companies are more resilient in the current economic environment

Zurich/Basel Media Releases Switzerland


Industries focusing on the domestic market continue to benefit from solid demand, while export-oriented industries are under pressure owing to falling demand and the strong Swiss franc. In most industries, large companies are more able to cope with this situation than small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Zurich/Basel, 27 September 2012 – At the beginning of September, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) published its expectations for the performance of the Swiss economy in the second quarter of this year. While exports and investments were disappointing in the second quarter, private consumption and construction investment were at least able to prevent the situation from deteriorating. Due to the rather disappointing figures for the second quarter of the current year, UBS CIO WM Research has lowered its growth forecasts to 1.1% from 1.4% for the current year and to 1.4% from 1.7% for the coming year.

The division between the domestic economy and export-oriented industries is also reflected in the results of the latest company survey for the SME barometer. While a low-level turnaround may be evident in the industrial sector, where a growing number of companies are reporting improved figures, sectors focusing on the domestic market such as the construction and service sectors are benefiting from consistently high domestic demand. However, the split within the Swiss economy was not only evident between export-oriented companies and those focusing on the domestic market, but also between large companies and SMEs. With only a few exceptions, the large companies posted better figures than the SMEs.

The difference between SMEs and large companies in the manufacturing sector is larger…

Since the beginning of the year, the UBS Industrial Barometer, which is calculated on the basis of 17 subindicators, has shown a further improvement in the economic environment. Despite dropping off slightly in May and June, the current level is still higher than at the beginning of the year. The picture is similar for SMEs, which have also been able to improve their economic situation since the beginning of 2012, although they did start off at a lower level than the large companies. And while the barometer for the large companies has started to rise again over the past two months, it remained virtually unchanged for SMEs during the same period.

It would appear that all indicators have bottomed out in the industrial sector, both for large companies as well as for SMEs. Most companies reported better figures on average for many indicators. Having said that, large companies fared better than SMEs in all indicators. This is especially evident in terms of the overseas order balance and incoming orders overall. Surprisingly, the profit situation was virtually identical for both large companies and SMEs.

…than in the service sector

The service sector continues to benefit from consistently high domestic demand, and posted increases for all indicators. One exception here was the prices that SMEs expect for the current quarter. The majority expect prices to fall slightly again in the third quarter of 2012. The gulf between large companies and SMEs is smaller in the service sector than in the manufacturing sector.

Over the past three months, demand has risen both in the building sector and among architecture and engineering firms. However, for the first time in a year, large companies in the building sector expect to have more headcount than necessary in the third quarter. The reason for this assessment could be due to the fact that these companies expect prices to fall during the third quarter. Third-quarter price expectations are also lower for large architecture firms and engineering consultancies than for SMEs.

The effects of the strong franc are still very evident in the tourism industry. However, the situation has stabilized at a low level. One exception to the above is demand among large companies. This increased for the first time after two months of falling figures.

UBS SME barometer


Service sector



Media contact

Daniel Kalt, UBS Chief Economist Switzerland
Tel. +41-44-234 25 60

Sibille Duss, CIO Research Wealth Management Research
Tel. +41-44-235 69 54


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