Local businesses plan for expansion in 2019

SMEs plan to expand in H1 2019 despite an uncertain external environment

Local enterprises are still looking to expand their businesses in the first half of 2019 to take advantage of regional opportunities, even as they expect softer turnover and weaker profitability going forward, according to the quarterly SBF-DP SME Index survey of 3,600 Singapore SMEs released in January.

The SBF-DP SME Index decreased from 51.0 in 4Q 2018 to 50.7 in 1Q 2019, indicating a slight dampening of sentiment among SMEs. According to Singapore Business Federation (SBF), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which came into force on 30 December 2018, and the signing of the ASEAN e-commerce agreements are likely to boost business opportunities for businesses in some sectors.

“With the CPTPP in force and Singapore’s extensive network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), the SBF is actively engaging our companies to make effective use of these agreements for sustained growth,” said Mr Ho Meng Kit, SBF CEO. SBF has organised outreach seminars on the recently signed FTAs, and will continue to do so this year.

He noted that given the on-going trade tensions and slower economic growth climate, it is even more pertinent that Singapore companies stay nimble to take advantage of opportunities that may arise from the diversion of trade and re-shuffling of global supply chains.

Seeking growth abroad

One SME that has transformed itself and is now seeking to expand overseas to sustain its growth is local printing firm Film Screen. In 2015, the company introduced the world’s first lighted bus advertisements using technology developed with the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, an arm of A*Star. The company’s lighted panels appear on a fleet of SMRT buses today.

Film Screen is now looking to leverage its innovation by exploring opportunities in Hong Kong, Australia and Thailand with transport operators and print service providers.

“The panel technology has changed the image of our company. We have always been rather inventive in the realm of traditional printing, but now we have ventured into functional printing and electronics,” said Mr Lee Chee Yong, managing director of Film Screen.
“It has positioned us for our next ten to 20 years of growth as we go abroad.”

About the SBF-DP SME Index

The SBF-DP Index – a joint initiative of the SBF and DP Information Group – measures the business sentiment of SMEs over a quarter. The Index comprises inputs from SMEs on their expectations in seven key areas – Turnover, Profitability, Business Expansion, Capital Investment, Hiring, Capacity Utilisation and Access to Financing.