The number of UK businesses breaks 3m mark

Tim Wallace
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Stephen Welton is the Business Growth Fund’s chief executive
The number of active firms in the UK has broken through the 3m level for the first time, as a surge in entrepreneurship takes hold, according to Barclays and the Business Growth Fund (BGF).

School leavers setting up firms have been joined by a growing number of older workers who find themselves out of a job, but sitting on experience and capital, the bi-annual report said. The number of firms rose 3.9 per cent in the first six months of 2014 to 3.03m.

London is leading the growth spurt, with the number of businesses up 7.7 per cent to 400,930. The slowest growth is in North­ern Ireland, where the number rose 0.1 per cent to 66,650.

But despite the emerging culture of entrepreneur­ship in the UK, the report argued Britain is still lagging behind the US in setting up firms and building value.

“I think there’s a general culture of lack of ambition to scale in the UK – in the US you build a $100m company and it’s seen as a good start, whereas in the UK it would have been sold three times already,” said Guy Rigby from Smith & Williamson.

Over the 12 months to June 2014, the number of business exits in­creased by 8.2 per cent, to 1,510.

In particular, the sales of businesses is being driven by European and US investors’ interest in British companies. IT and high-tech firms have been major beneficiaries of this trend for investment into the UK.

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