UK fixed investment is likely to grow at nearly double its pre-recession rate this year, according to HSBC, which says the bank will “significantly” increase net lending to smaller companies.

In a report, the bank forecasts a 7.1 per cent increase in fixed investment – physical assets including machinery, premises and stock – compared with a pre-recession annual average of 3.6 per cent.

Fixed investments include both business and government spending, with investment by companies accounting for just over half.

HSBC, which has a 16-17 per cent share of the small and medium-sized business lending market, said the overall value of loans it approved in the first two months of the year was 37 per cent higher than a year earlier.

It plans to make almost £6bn of new lending available across its regional network, with sums allocated individually to all its 52 local business centres.

The bank said companies were adopting growth strategies including investing in new equipment, using working capital to smooth payments to suppliers, expanding into new markets (especially in emerging Asia) and buying premises.

Amanda Murphy, HSBC’s head of business banking, said: “We have put the funds into the hands of our local relationship managers to empower them to identify and work with ambitious companies in their area.”

HSBC predicts that the economy will grow 2.9 per cent this year, slightly above the consensus forecast of 2.7 per cent.

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