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More focus on mid-sized businesses critical for New Zealand’s economic growth

Despite their significant contribution to the economy, a New Zealand study released today has found our mid-sized businesses are not performing as well as their counterparts overseas.

Conducted by Grant Thornton New Zealand, the research focusses solely on New Zealand’s mid-market. It found over the past decade, the number of mid-sized businesses has grown at a faster rate than small businesses, have more chance of survival and contributed $35 billion to GDP in 2017. However, it also found, while mid-sized businesses are outperforming both small businesses and large enterprises in employment growth, they fall behind when it comes to productivity and profit growth. Capital investment in mid-sized businesses is also low – they have a similar equity to assets ratio as small businesses.

Stacey Davies, Business Advisory Services Partner at Grant Thornton New Zealand says, “The mid-market is an important part of our economy, but it’s often overlooked as we focus on getting small businesses off the ground and celebrating the success of larger ones.

“If mid-sized businesses’ view of the world is not articulated in New Zealand’s business and economic conversations, their needs won’t be met and opportunities for not only those businesses, but a significant portion of the population, will be missed.”

The study found 76% of mid-sized businesses requesting financing in 2018 favoured debt financing while only 9% of all mid-sized businesses requested equity financing.

“Having put the hard yards in to build their businesses, owners are reluctant to give up a share of ownership to an investor, however, in many cases it’s necessary to achieve meaningful growth,” says Davies.

Mid-sized businesses are also falling well behind when it comes to operating internationally. The study found about 27% of mid-sized businesses exported products or services in 2018, and only 1.9% reported having international operations. By comparison, 46% of German, 29% of UK and approximately 33% of Australian mid-sized businesses have international operations.

The report recommends that mid-sized businesses develop a voice of their own, beginning with the Government determining an official New Zealand-based definition for a mid-sized business. Once a sharper definition is in place, why the best mid-sized businesses succeed can be identified and programmes developed to stimulate or accelerate mid-sized business growth.

Key findings

  • There are 10,698 MSBs in New Zealand compared with 2,460 large and 471,021 small enterprises
  • 65% of MSBs are 11 years or older
  • MSBs directly injected an estimated $21.7 billion into New Zealand households through salaries and wages
  • MSBs contributed $35 billion to New Zealand’s GDP in 2017
  • About 27% of MSBs exported in 2019
  • 9% of New Zealand MSBs have international operations
  • More than half of New Zealand’s mid-sized businesses are in the wholesale trade, construction, retail, trade or manufacturing sectors.

Further enquiries, please contact:

Claire Cicchini
Acumen Republic

T +64 21 834 652


Notes to editors:

Findings in The power and potential of the mid-size business is based on three sets of data produced by Statistics New Zealand:

  • Annual Enterprise Survey 2018
  • Business Operations Survey 2018
  • Business Demography data 2018

For the purposes of this research, New Zealand’s mid-size businesses have been defined as having revenue between $5m and $30m, and/or employing between 20 and 99 people. The primary source for this research is the Annual Enterprise Survey (AES) which defines the enterprises by income groups: $0 to $5 million (small businesses); >$5 million to $30 million (MSBs); and >$30 million (large businesses). Business Demography and Business Operations Survey data is based on employee size groups: 0 to 19 employees (small businesses); 20 to 99 employees (MSBs); and 100+ employees (large businesses).

More information about these definitions can be found in the report.

About Grant Thornton International Ltd*

Grant Thornton is one of the world's leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms. These firms help dynamic organisations unlock their potential for growth by providing meaningful, actionable advice through a broad range of services. Proactive teams, led by approachable partners in these firms, use insights, experience and instinct to solve complex issues for privately owned, publicly listed and public sector clients. Over 53,000 Grant Thornton people, in more than 135 countries, are focused on making a difference to clients, colleagues and the communities in which we live and work.

Grant Thornton International is a non-practicing, international umbrella entity organised as a private company limited by guarantee incorporated in England and Wales. References to "Grant Thornton" are to the brand under which the Grant Thornton member firms operate and refer to one or more member firms, as the context requires. Grant Thornton International and the member firms are not a worldwide partnership. Services are delivered independently by member firms, which are not responsible for the services or activities of one another. Grant Thornton International does not provide services to clients.

*All references to Grant Thornton International in the press release and this “Notes to editor” section are to Grant Thornton International Ltd.  Grant Thornton International Ltd is a non-practicing, international

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