Businesses less positive about investment

© ANP / John van Hamond
Expectations among business owners in the manufacturing and business services sectors regarding investment were less positive in March 2024 than they were last year. Manufacturers were the least positive, while the investment outlook deteriorated the most in transportation and storage. Financial constraints were the reason most often given for not investing. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of the Netherlands Business Survey, March 2024.

Despite the deterioration in expectations, the number of business owners expecting an increase in investment is still greater than the number expecting a decrease. On balance, this means that expectations remain positive, although they are less positive than one year ago. Manufacturers are broadly neutral, with a net score of just half a percent, which also makes them the least positive of all sectors. Business owners in the sectors of culture, sports and recreation and real estate are the most positive.

Investement expectations in 2024 and 2023
 March 2024 (Net % of business owners expecting an increase or decrease)March 2023 (Net % of business owners expecting an increase or decrease)
Culture, sport and recreation26.430.4
Renting, buying and selling real estate23.333.0
Information and communication9.116.7
Transportation and storage7.927.5
Business services5.714.3
Accommodation and food services5.421.7
Other services3.614.2

Previous research based on figures from 2021 showed that half of all investment by businesses in the sectors shown here occurs in the real estate sector. This is followed by manufacturing (16 percent) and business services (15 percent). Accommodation and food services, culture, sports and recreation, and other services account for a relatively small share of total investment, at just 1 percent each.

Majority of business owners experiencing obstacles to investment

The majority of business owners say they are experiencing obstacles to investment. Those in the real estate sector are the most likely to report such obstacles, at nearly 73 percent. Businesses in information and communication are the least likely to report such obstacles, at only 41 percent. In the accommodation and food services sector, almost a quarter of business owners do not plan to make additional investments. This share is lowest in manufacturing, at nearly 13 percent.

Financial constraints, such as lack of resources or excessive financing costs, were the most frequently cited obstacles to investment. In the culture, sports and recreation sector, business owners mentioned this factor the most often at over 34 percent, while those in the information and communications sector mentioned it the least often at just over 13 percent. Lack of personnel was cited the most often in the business services sector at over 26 percent. Business owners in real estate and transportation and storage are relatively likely to identify policy, legislation and regulations as an obstacle to investment.

Main obstacles to investment
 Financial limitations such as lack of liquidity or high cost of finance (% businesses)Lack of staff (% businesses)Policy, legislation and regulations (% businesses)Insufficient return on investment expected (% businesses)Other factors (% businesses)None, there no obstacles to investment for our business (% businesses)Not applicable (% businesses)
Renting, buying and selling real estate28.
Transportation and storage239.916.413.12.621.113.9
Culture, sport and recreation34.6107.
Accommodation and food services23.
Business services14.426.
Other services20.719.23.232.727.623.6
Information and communication13.

Technology most frequently mentioned area for investment

Businesses invest for a range of different reasons, but one of the most important is to remain future-proof. Over 88 percent of businesses report investing for this reason. Technology (in the form of digitisation or automation, for instance) is the main area that these businesses invest in. In the information and communications sector, just over 45 percent of business owners mentioned this area. Product innovation or R&D was mentioned the most frequently in the manufacturing sector, at nearly 31 percent. In the business services sector and accommodation and food services sector, businesses are most likely to invest in staff – in the form of training and education, for example. Sustainability was mentioned the most often in the real estate sector, at nearly 50 percent.

Main areas of investment in order for businsses to remain future-proof
 Technology (e.g. digitisation, automation) (% businesses)Product innovation or R&D (% businesses)Staff (e.g. training/courses) (% businesses)Sustainability/corporate social responsibilty (% businesses)Other (% businesses)
Information and communication45.219.331.62.91.0
Business services33.211.640.812.22.3
Transportation and storage39.23.619.134.43.6
Accommodation and food services22.68.040.823.25.4
Other services25.61.732.836.23.7
Culture, sport and recreation21.65.238.324.410.6
Renting, buying and selling real estate20.80.025.549.54.2