The large fall in sterling in recent months has failed to turn into an unalloyed benefit for UK industry, replies from the FT’s manufacturing barometer suggest.
More than a quarter of manufacturers said the devaluation of the pound had been bad for their business, in spite of the boost it gave to exports.
The main reason cited was that sterling’s decline had pushed up the cost of raw materials, many of which were imported with prices linked to the euro or the dollar. Over the past two years, sterling has fallen about 20 per cent against both currencies.
“Even though we have seen some help to our exports, input costs have rocketed and this has led to reduced profit margins on our UK business,” said Graeme Hall, managing director of Brandon Medical, a Leeds-based maker of hospital lighting.
Chris McCullough, managing director of Manchester Automatic Machining, a parts producer that sells entirely to UK customers, said the change in currency had been damaging because it increased the price of the raw materials he imported, but with no balancing benefit from higher exports.
Tony Walker, managing director of Ritchie, which makes gas-handling equipment and is based in Forfar, Angus, was also worried about the “spectre of inflation” caused by the effect of devaluation pushing up prices of imported goods.
However, 35 of the 57 companies surveyed said sterling’s fall had been a help because it had made them more competitive in export markets.
Chris Rea, managing director of AES Seal, a maker of mechanical seals for chemical plants, based in Rotherham, said the lower pound had offset weakness in demand in many countries.
Hugh Gibson, chairman and owner of Derby-based Royal Crown Derby, which makes porcelain giftware, said: “Demand for exports in places such as Japan, Russia and the Middle East is growing for us, helped by the weakness in sterling.”
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