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BUSINESS UP FOR MID-SIZE FIRMS IN WESTCHESTER, NATWEST SURVEY REVEALS

 NEW YORK, May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Chief executives heading mid-size firms in Westchester County reported a better year than their peers in the metropolitan area, according to the results of a survey announced today by National Westminster Bancorp.
 Of the 98 Westchester firms surveyed, out of a sample of 552 overall, 56 percent said the performance of their companies improved last year. The results compare very favorably to a metro region average of 45 percent and were up considerably from the 42 percent response registered by Westchester CEOs a year ago.
 Yet, when the CEOs projected what business would be like in the year ahead, their responses were guarded. While 60 percent of Westchester's CEOs expect improvement, this was not only lower than the regional average of 68 percent but down sharply from their 78 percent response last year.
 This drop in expected company performance caused Westchester's Business Confidence Index, a composite of future expectations and present performance, to drift slightly lower, from 95 last year to 92. The Index was established with a base of 100 in 1988 and had been 101 in 1989, 95 in 1990 and 85 in 1991.
 "With what's happened to major Westchester corporations and their impact on other businesses in the area, Westchester CEOs are not expecting much in the year ahead," said Peter Radford, NatWest Bancorp's chief economist. "Actually, I would have anticipated more of a drop in business confidence over the past year and that hasn't materialized."
 Only 16 percent of Westchester respondents felt that the economy improved over the past year. And though they believe it will get better, Westchester's CEOs were undecided on what direction the local economy will take, with 30 percent saying it will be better next year, 36 percent expecting it to be the same, and 27 percent anticipating it to be worse. Their expectations were the region's most pessimistic. By comparison, 49 percent of New Jersey's CEOs see the economy improving, with only 12 percent expecting it to be worse.
 Furthermore, in a response in line with CEOs from New York City and Long Island, 68 percent of Westchester CEOs perceive the local economy as being worse than the nation's.
 Forty-four percent of Westchester CEOs reported a higher level of operating capacity than last year, and 59 percent plan to expand the size of the firms in the next few years. Both responses were regional highs.
 In comparing cash flow with that of last year, 31 percent felt it improved, 33 percent said it remained about the same and 34 percent said it decreased. Thirty-five percent raised capital or borrowed money in the past year, and 38 percent anticipate doing so in the year ahead, both responses were slightly below regional averages.
 Fifty-nine of the CEOs surveyed reported their customers buying behavior to be more cautious, down from the 71 percent response in last year's survey. More CEOs, on the other hand, are concerned about their customers' ability to pay their debts, a rise from 24 percent to 30 percent in those saying that they are either very or extremely concerned.
 Fifty-six percent of the CEOs rate their company's location as either excellent or very good, up from 51 percent who felt so last year. Yet, the number of CEOs saying they they are planning to relocate in the next year or two has risen from 17 percent to 20 percent. By comparison, the regional average for relocation was just 11 percent.
 What do Westchester CEOs view as the most important policy issues facing President Bill Clinton's new administration? They deemed health care, reduction of the deficit and education, in that order, as the three most pressing issues.
 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 Westchester chief executives, the survey included interviews with CEOs from New York City, Connecticut, New Jersey and Long Island.
 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 international banking and financial services organization.
 -0- 5/20/93
 /CONTACT: Tim Connolly of National Westminster Bancorp, Inc., 212-602-2511/
 (NW)


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

TM -- NY009 -- 0707 05/20/93 11:00 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:May 20, 1993
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