LONDON: Boosting market share, transforming corporate structures and launching products suited to the difficult economic climate are among the main current priorities of UK firms, Deloitte has found.

The consultancy polled 112 chief financial officers from major corporations, of which 51% said their company was enhancing its market presence and capacity so as to be better prepared than rivals for an upswing in trading conditions.

An additional 50% were hoping to "take advantage of weaker competition to expand market share", the same score as for fuelling the long term growth of existing products and services.

Similarly, exactly half of the panel thought the UK's austere fiscal circumstances provided an opportunity to "implement long overdue changes" to business models.

Precisely one third intended to develop products meeting new customer needs resulting from the challenging economic environment, and 31% wanted to make acquisitions at discounted rates.

For 25% of enterprises, weakened competition would offer possibilities to enter untapped categories, while a soft labour market was seen as an opportunity to acquire talent by 19%.

"The dominant concern of UK businesses for 2013 is the economy, just as it has been at the start of each of the last four years," said Ian Stewart, chief UK economist at Deloitte. "Yet corporates have not closed the door to growth."

When describing their "strong priorities" for the coming 12 months, a further 50% of interviewees aimed to reduce costs, alongside 49% hoping to increase their cashflow.

Introducing new products and services or expanding into new markets secured 34%, while raising capital expenditure registered 20% and making acquisitions yielded 17%.

"The emerging picture is of businesses which are constrained by low growth and uncertainty rather than weakness in business models or access to capital," said Stewart.

"Despite confidence fluctuating with the ups and downs in economic prospects, we've seen a long term drift to greater defensiveness by corporates, not for want of capital but rather for scarcity of opportunity."

Overall business investment growth was pegged to rise by 7.4% from 2013–17, compared with upticks of 3% from 1998–2006 and just 0.8% from 2007–12 as the financial crisis made its mark.

Data sourced from Deloitte; additional content by Warc staff