• Largest firms see sterling falling by 12% if U.K. leaves EU
  • More than half companies are hedging versus pound's decline

Three in every four of the top U.K. companies think that the pound will weaken should Britons vote to leave the European Union in a referendum in June, a survey by market analysts East & Partners Europe shows.

Large British companies are the most concerned about the U.K. currency sliding versus the dollar if voters decide for Brexit, with 77 percent of the nation’s top 1,000 firms expressing this view, the poll indicated. They predict the pound will fall by 12 percent on average, and have hedged 83 percent of their foreign-exchange exposure to protect from that outcome.

Small and medium firms are less worried, with the survey showing 17 percent believe the pound will be harmed by a leave vote on June 23 and only a fifth of them hedging. Of all U.K. companies, 53 percent have hedged for such a potential depreciation in sterling.

The U.K. currency has been a barometer of sentiment throughout the referendum debate, sliding to a seven-year low versus the dollar about a week after the date of the vote was announced, and rallying for three weeks in April on signs that the “remain” camp was gaining traction. The pound was little changed at $1.4429 as of 9:09 a.m. London time.

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