By Andy Sambidge
Saudi, Kuwait buck regional trend as UAE is shown to be least optimistic in survey.
Levels of confidence among Gulf business people declined slightly in the fourth quarter of 2009, although Kuwait and Saudi Arabia bucked the trend, a new report published on Wednesday showed.
The UAE, Oman and Bahrain business confidence levels all declined in the last quarter, HSBC's quarterly Gulf Business Confidence Index revealed.
The index fell from 81.4 to 80.2 between the third and fourth quarters of 2009.
HSBC said in a statement that while the change was small, it masked a more complex regional picture where Saudi's index rose marginally from 91.5 to 91.6, while Kuwait's rose from 83.1 to 84.6 and the UAE declined from 72.2 to 69.8.
The bank added that the main trend of business sentiment over the last three quarters was becoming "slowly more confident", although it remained a long way below the exuberant mood of 2007 and early 2008.
The first quarter of 2009 registered an Index score of 70.9, so the year has seen a bounce of more than 10 points in the index.
Simon Vaughan Johnson, HSBC's head of commercial banking for the MENA region, said: "We are seeing a slight dip in confidence levels quarter on quarter across the board, but we have not returned to the lows seen earlier in 2009.
"If I were to characterise the mood of the region's business people, I would say they are cautiously realistic. 2009 was a difficult year for the GCC economies, and there is a feeling that 2010 will be a year of improvement, tempered by a realism of expectation."
He added: "Confidence is on the rise in the hydrocarbon-producing states of Saudi, Qatar and Kuwait, while the UAE's score is clearly heavily influenced by Dubai's well-publicised debt issues."
The business confidence survey also showed that Saudi Arabia was the most confident country in the region while the UAE remained the least confident.
Results showed that predictions for profitability, turnover, and investment all showed slight rises quarter-on-quarter while 37 percent of respondents said they will add staff in 2010, compared to 36 in the previous quarter.
Hmmm... I would re-word this article to say satisfaction with HSBC customer service continues to fall!