By Daniel Hunter

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) that export are growing faster than those that don't, according to new research from Barclays.

SME exporters said their profits grew by an average of 17% over the last financial year. That compares to all SMEs which reported average growth of 14% and growth of just 11% for those that don't export. In fact, a quarter of exporters (27%) reported growth of 40% or more - Barclays defines "substantial growth" as 21% and above.

More than a third (37%) of companies that are now exporting said they had hit a growth ceiling in the UK within their first three years of trading, adding that expanding the business internationally was key to growth.

Two thirds (65%) of those surveyed said they expect to see a rise in turnover over the next 12 months, with one in ten predicted that "substantial growth" of 21% or more.

Barclays said medium-sized firms are the most optimistic about growth, with 84% expecting to see revenue and profits rise in the next financial year.

Steve Childs, Head of International at Barclays Business said: “Confidence has returned to the SME market at record levels and we’re seeing real optimism for future growth well into 2015. Small businesses are seizing opportunities available to them in the UK and internationally. Trading overseas is just one example of how businesses have accelerated their growth and is key to the health of the UK economy in addition. It has never been a more important time for SMEs to get the support they need to trade internationally.

“While the level of growth varies across business size, sectors and regions, it is vital that small business owners are aware of the short and long term opportunities as well as industry support available to nurture their business. Not all businesses are looking to grow and for those needing extra support we run a wide range of networking sessions and clinics to meet the different needs of local businesses, so they can flourish not only in the current climate but years to come.”

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