Top companies split on business prospects for 2014

THE leaders of some of Australia's top companies are split on whether 2014 will be a good year for doing business, according to the Australian Industry Group's annual business prospects report.

While the report showed most chief executive officers expected conditions to remain weak, it pointed to modest improvements in manufacturing, construction, services and mining services.

The report found 37% of CEOs thought things would improve, while 35% expected conditions worsen and 28% expected little change to business conditions this year.

AIG chief executive Innes Willox said the survey showed expectations of only modest growth in production, sales and employment as the mining industry slows further and other sectors take time to respond to a lower Australian dollar and interest rates.

"The challenge for Australian business leaders and policy-makers in 2014 continues to be: How can we 'change gear' from economic growth driven by mining investment to that generated by non-mining business activities?" Mr Willox said.

He said the downtime this year would give state and federal governments a chance to look at policies across industrial relations, tax, infrastructure and innovation, in a bid to boost longer-term economic growth.

The survey found 40% of manufacturing leaders expected another year of contraction, while 46% of mining services leaders expected a downturn in business.

However, chiefs in the services and construction industries expected an upswing in their sectors, with 44% of services industry leaders expecting positive change and 30% of building executives forecasting similar results.