Finance chiefs expect Britain to return to recession

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More than half of the finance chiefs of Britain's biggest companies expect the UK to fall back into recession this year, after seeing credit availability deteriorate at the fastest rate since the failure of Lehman Brothers.

A Deloitte survey of finance directors of FTSE 100 companies, large private firms and UK subsidiaries of major foreign businesses found that 54 per cent believe the UK will suffer a double-dip recession – up from 27 per cent a year ago.

The finance chiefs also warned that a break-up of the euro poses the biggest single threat to their companies in 2012. Over a third of respondents expect one or more member states to quit the single currency this year, with one finance director conceding: "Everyone is waiting for something very bad to happen."

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said firms are already seriously suffering from the eurozone turmoil.

"Financial stress is already affecting big UK corporates, with CFOs reporting the sharpest decline in credit availability since the third quarter of 2008," he said. "The financial strategies of UK corporates have reversed in the last year. Finance directors entered 2011 with a focus on expanding into new markets and increasing capital spending. They enter 2012 with a focus on cutting costs and increasing cash flow."