CFOs across Europe remain focused on their company’s growth despite levels of optimism and revenue expectations softening, according to Deloitte’s latest European CFO Survey.
Deloitte has collated the results of surveys run by its member firms in 20 European countries for the spring edition of the European CFO Survey, giving the views of 1,652 CFOs.
Optimism and revenue expectations slow
38% of Europe’s CFOs say they are more optimistic about the prospects for their company than they were three months ago, down from 43% in the Autumn 2017 survey. 12% say they are less optimistic, up from 11%.
63% of CFOs are confident that their firm will increase revenues over the next 12 months, down from 69% six months ago. 71% of CFOs in euro area countries predict revenue growth, compared to 52% in non-euro countries.
Uncertainty levels unchanged
51% of European CFOs say there is a high level of financial and economic uncertainty, down slightly from 52% in Autumn 2017.
CFOs in the UK have the highest reading on perceptions of uncertainty, with 86%, while CFOs in Denmark had the lowest with 9%. Perceptions of uncertainty are higher in non-euro counties, with 57% reporting high uncertainty, versus 49% in the euro area.
Risk appetite unchanged
34% of European CFOs say now is a good time to take greater risk onto their balance sheets, up from 33% in last autumn’s survey. Just 14% of CFOs in the UK are willing to take on greater risk, the lowest across the 20 countries, compared to 64% in Finland, which remains the highest.
41% of CFOs in euro area countries say now is a good time to take on risk, compared to 24% in non-euro countries.
Improving outlook for capex and hiring
46% forecast an increase in capital spending in the next 12 months, up from 42%. 56% of CFOs in euro area countries plan to increase spending, compared to 31% in non-euro countries.
69% of CFOs in Ireland and France say they plan to increase capex, the highest across the 20 countries, compared to a low of 18% in the UK.
42% of CFOs say they plan to increase employee numbers in the next 12 months, up from 38% in Q1. CFOs in Ireland are the most optimistic about employee numbers, with 69% forecasting an increase, while just 15% of CFOs in the UK plan to increase hiring, the lowest. 56% of CFOs in euro area countries plan to increase hiring, up from 38% in Q3, compared to 31% in non-euro countries.
Automotive sector most bullish
CFOs in Europe’s automotive sector are the most confident about both capital expenditure (with 49% forecasting an increase) and employee numbers over the next twelve months (50%). Those in the tourism and travel sector are least optimistic about capex, with 19% planning to increasing spending, and CFOs in the consumer goods sector are least optimistic on employee numbers with 8% planning increases.
Cyber, protectionism and skills emerge as biggest concerns
32% of CFOs say that a new Eurozone crisis, while rated as a low probability event, would have the biggest impact on their company’s outlook. 73% of CFOs say that a rise in protectionism is likely, and 50% say a major cyber attack is likely, though both are rated relatively low on their impact on company financial prospects.
CFOs in 11 out of the 20 countries surveyed identified a shortage of skilled labour as one of the top three biggest risks to their business, up from 7 out of 19 countries in the Autumn 2017 survey.
CFOs remain focused on expansion
In 11 of the 20 countries surveyed, CFOs cite more expansionary balance sheet measures as priorities than defensive measures, with organic growth the main expansionary focus for CFOs. This is broadly unchanged from the previous survey when CFOs in 11 of 19 countries were prioritizing expansion.
“Europe’s recovery saw a slight loss of momentum in the first quarter, with CFO optimism and revenue expectations nudging lower. But outside the UK businesses are upbeat about spending and hiring. Despite a first quarter wobble it looks a bit too early to say we’ve reached the top of the economic cycle” said Ian Stewart, chief UK economist at Deloitte.
David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive, Deloitte North West Europe, said:“Despite higher levels of uncertainty and the mood turning from optimistic to normal, Europe’s CFOs remain confident about the future. A growing number now consider this a good time to take on risk, invest and increase headcount.
“However, across Europe, CFOs identify a shortage of skilled labour as a significant risk to their business. With a tightening labour market, companies will need to prepare for fierce competition to attract and retain talent, and focus on the pace of investment in AI, robotics and automation – all job-saving technologies – as part of their plans for the coming 12 months.”
For additional information or to view Deloitte’s latest “European CFO Survey” click on the link https://bit.ly/2LlWc8t.
This is the seventh edition of the Deloitte European CFO Survey.
The Survey collates the findings of surveys conducted by Deloitte member firms in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
In total, 1,652 CFOs took part in these surveys, conducted between February and April 2018.
Percentages used in the report are weighted by GDP to provide accurate comparisons, taking into account individual countries’ GDPs in relation to the total GDP of the 20 participating countries.