Confidence levels in Europe's rental sector are no longer growing but there has been no collapse in business sentiment as a result of the Eurozone crisis, finds the latest ERA/IRN RentalTracker survey for the fourth quarter of 2011.

The survey found that the balance of opinion on business conditions at the end of 2011 - the difference between those with positive and negative views - managing to stay in the positive, albeit by just 0.6%.

The survey, which was completed by more than 310 companies in Europe, is organised each quarter by International Rental News (IRN) magazine and the European Rental Association. The full results will be published in the Jan-Feb issue of IRN.

The other notable finding is a significant improvement in confidence among UK rental companies, with the positive balance of opinion growing from a negative -14% to +28%, which makes it top of the ‘swing' chart with a positive change of +42% from the previous quarter, double that of the next best performer, the Nordic region.

Other positive findings include a continuation of the upward trend in time utilisation of the fleet, with the positive balance of opinion almost identical to the third quarter at +36.2%.

Also comforting is the fact that revenue levels continue to grow year on year. Almost 60% of companies reported higher activity levels in the final quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2010, and two thirds reported higher revenues for the full year 2011 compared to 2010.

The fourth quarter results need to be put into perspective. The +0.6% balance of opinion on current business conditions, while positive, is the lowest level since the final quarter of 2009 and continues the negative trend that started from the middle of last year. This is clearly a reflection of the Eurozone troubles.

There are some striking results geographically. The biggest positive leap in confidence is found in the UK, which is now above the European average in terms of confidence levels, investment plans, revenue growth, utilisation trends and employment intentions.

Elsewhere, it is multinational companies and rental businesses in the Benelux who appear to be most concerned by events in the Eurozone, in both cases showing more than -20% swings in business confidence at the end of 2011. In the case of multinationals this clearly shows their sensitivity to wider economic conditions in Europe.

This survey is the first to include data from Russian rental companies, thanks to a cooperation agreement with RusRent, the Moscow based rental training and consultancy body.

More than 40 Russian companies participated, and their responses show that the country's rental sector is well into recovery mode. There was a modest positive balance of opinion of +5% on current business conditions - higher than the European average - but Russian rental companies are the most likely to be employing more staff at the start of 2012.

Russian companies are the most optimistic for the future - 40% expect business to be ‘much better' at the start of 2013 - and they are also near the top of the investment league, with 43% expecting to increase spending by more than 10% this year.

For more information on the survey, contact Murray Pollok, Editor, IRN. Tel: +44 (0)1505 850043, E-mail: Murray.Pollok@khl.com

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