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BUSINESS IMPROVES SAY MID-SIZE FIRMS ON LONG ISLAND, NATWEST SURVEY REVEALS

 NEW YORK, May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Mid-size firms on Long Island reported improved business performance over the past year, according to the results of a survey announced today by National Westminster Bancorp.
 Of 110 Long Island CEOs interviewed, out of a total sample of 552 overall, almost half, 49 percent, said they had a better year last year than the year before, up considerably from a 34 percent response in last year's survey. While this was in line with a regional average, it should be noted that 27 percent said business declined, a region high.
 This improvement drove Long Island's Business Confidence Index, a composite of future expectations and present performance, to a five-year high of 92. The Index had been 84 in 1992, 89 in 1991, 91 in 1990 and 86 in 1989, beginning from a base of 100 in 1988.
 "The survey reveals that smaller firms are being pulled along in the recovery, and this may help to explain some of Long Island's optimism, as two-thirds of their respondents run firms with fewer than 50 employees," said Peter A. Radford, chief economist at NatWest Bancorp. "What this also says is that these firms are beginning to deal with the impact of cuts in defense programs. They seem to be past the initial anxiety and are dealing with reality."
 Two-thirds of the Long Island CEOs surveyed felt that their companies' performance will improve next year, a response similar to that last year.
 They projected optimism despite gloomy sentiment about the local and
national economy. Forty-one percent of the area's executives felt both that the nation's economy was better this year and that it would be better next year. Bother percentages were well below regional averages.
 In addition, Long Island CEOs expect even less from the local economy. Seventy percent felt that the local economy was worse than the nation's. Only a third believe it will improve next year. In asking the CEOs if the recovery has reached their industry, 52 percent of Long Island CEOs said not at all.
 Long Island firms reported a drop in new business prospecting, from 83 percent last year to 76 percent, the only area of the region under 90 percent. Yet, of those that did prospect, 51 percent were either very or extremely successful, much higher than the 27 percent regional average.
 Half the executives surveyed report the buying behavior of their customers to be more cautious, down from the two-thirds who felt so a year ago. Yet, the CEOs are anxious about their customers' ability to pay debts, with 72 percent voicing some level of concern.
 Long Island reported the region's largest jump in operating capacity, from 76.9 percent to 81.2 percent. Thirty-five percent of the CEOs raised money or borrowed money in the past year and 41 percent intend to do so next year.
 In other survey findings, Long Island had the region's largest drop in executives who rated their location either very good or excellent, from a region high 62 percent last year to 51 percent this year. Also, the Island's mid-size and small firms were the least likely in the region to provide employee health insurance, down from 88 percent last year to 73 percent.
 NatWest's seventh annual survey of CEOs, conducted by Northstar Research Associates Inc., of New York, covers mid-sized firms under $250 million in annual sales. In addition to Long Island chief executives, the survey also included interviews with CEOs from New York City, Westchester, New Jersey and Connecticut.
 National Westminster Bancorp is a regional bank holding company with $22 billion in assets. Its main subsidiaries are NatWest NJ and NatWest USA, which operate more than 260 branch offices in New York and New Jersey. NatWest Bancorp is a wholly owned subsidiary of National Westminster Bank PLC, the London-based intn?ational banking and financial services organization.
 -0- 5/20/93
 /CONTACT: Tim Connolly of National Westminster Bancorp, 212-602-2511/
 (NW)


CO: National Westminster Bancorp ST: New York IN: FIN SU: ECO

WB-TS -- NY008 -- 0708 05/20/93 11:01 EDT
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Date:May 20, 1993
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