Kiwi SMEs more upbeat than Oz - report

NEW Zealand small and medium business owners are feeling more confident about the economy and their own performance, in contrast to their counterparts across the Tasman.

The latest MYOB Business Monitor found the mood among Kiwi business owners has picked up over the past year.

Out of 1000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs), 28 per cent expected the economy to improve within 12 months, compared to 24 per cent in March and 18 per cent in June last year.

Likewise, there has been a pick-up in the number of owners anticipating their own performance to improve.

Compared to 36 per cent in June last year, 43 per cent now expected to increase their revenue in the coming year.

James Scollay, from MYOB NZ, said the health of the country's SME sector had gone from "a stop-start recovery" to a more stable, consistent level of growth.

"This is fantastic news for those New Zealanders who have worked so hard over the post-recession period to invest in growth and consolidate gains," he said.

Meanwhile, MYOB's parallel survey in Australia showed their sector facing tougher times.

"The performance of our major trading partner is certainly something we need to be aware of as we look ahead to 2014," Scollay said.

Only 18 per cent of Australian SME operators experienced actual revenue growth in the past year, compared to 30 per cent in New Zealand.

Looking ahead, only 25 per cent expected to improve their own revenue in the year ahead - close to half that of New Zealand.

At home, the Christchurch rebuild was continuing to create optimism in the region, Scollay said.

"Despite the delays and challenges of the rebuild, there's little doubt now that it is driving significant improvements across the health of local businesses - with potential for the whole country."

Business operators in the city were the most positive about their local economy, with 37 per cent expecting an improvement in the coming year.

Christchurch business owners were also the most confident about a revenue rise in the following 12 months, followed by Auckland.

Nationally, hiring intentions in the sector are still fairly poor - only 10 per cent intended to increase the number of full-time employees in the year ahead.

Sixty-eight per cent said they would maintain current levels and 20 per cent said they did not know.

Only 19 per cent intended to increase pay levels in the next 12 months.

The most pressing concerns for New Zealand SME operators were fuel prices, attracting new customers, cashflow, and and price margins and profitability.