NatWest looks for modest growth

Businesses are increasingly seeking long-term finance in response to the more stable economic climate, Lord Alexander, chairman of NatWest group, said yesterday, writes John Eisenhammer.

"I believe there is a growing realisation that a stable, low inflation environment is vital to the long-term economic success of the UK. The stability of the economy is a key platform for export led growth," he told the annual meeting.

While personal lending demand remains flat, corporate lending is picking up. "It is in a different and more healthy form than we have seen for some time," said Lord Alexander. Given recent improvements in the economy, "now is the time in the cycle to invest, to secure our future income."

"Over the next two years we believe the UK economy will continue its modest recovery. But the strong growth experienced in 1994 will not be repeated.

"We anticipate only modest lending growth in the UK, coupled with intensifying competition in all our markets. The current environment demands ever enhanced cost vigilance and a continued drive for new sources of income."

NatWest's provisions for bad and doubtful debts fell by 51 per cent during 1994, due both to the improving economy, and greater attention to risk management.