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Pulse check: Business confidence high despite long-term concerns

M&A and hiring are big worries for companies, even in a strong economy.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. April 5, 2019
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As uncertainty about the U.S. and global economies continues to grow, middle market companies are increasingly open to mergers and acquisitions.

In a survey of firms ranging in size from $5 million to $250 million in gross annual revenue, SunTrust Bank found that 28% have turned to M&A as a key long-term growth strategy, with 11% saying it’s the No. 1 priority. That tops expansion, new product development and new customer segment acquisition.

Both numbers are up slightly from last year, when SunTrust conducted a similar survey.

“That was a surprising statistic to me,” says Tim Schar, president of SunTrust’s Tampa market, in an interview. “But we’ve had such a long recovery that something has to give, even though we’ve seen strong economic growth, businesses generally feel good and optimism from CEOs has been up.”

SunTrust’s survey produced some cognitive dissonance. While Schar is correct about the overall feel-good state of individual business leaders — 73% say their outlook is strong — half of them strongly believe a recession will begin in 2019.

“We are climbing the wall of worry,” Schar says. “There’s a sense of the inevitable that I don’t buy into, myself. The underlying fundamentals of the economy are still good, but people are concerned about a slowdown.”



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