2013 Q3 – CFO Survey
A new mood of confidence
CFO optimism, a key indicator, has turned positive for the first time in 18 months. Are we finally at a turning point? Business conditions are getting better. Financing conditions remain favourable. But actual performance-to-budget once again disappointed in the third quarter, and is unlikely to catch up this year. Growth prospects remain weak, and the optimistic CFO mood has not yet translated into more expansionary business priorities.
“A new mood of confidence pervades the most recent survey. CFO optimism has climbed to the highest number we have reported since the end of 2010, almost three years ago.”
Thierry Van Schoubroeck, Managing Partner Consulting
A new mood of confidence
CFOs have become more positive about prospects for economic activity throughout the world (although much less so for Belgium and the Eurozone). For exporters especially (deriving at least 70% of revenues from outside Belgium), actual or expected growth in US, Japan, Asia-Pacific and the emerging markets has positively impacted their current investment plans.
The optimistic mood has not yet translated into positive financials. Performance to budget remains disappointing in the third quarter, and worrying. Over 50% of survey participants reported their companies are running behind budget, with few hoping to catch up in the final quarter. Only 22% are doing better than budgeted.
Defensive strategies – among them cost reduction, cash flow management and efficiency improvement – remain the dominant priorities. Appetite for additional risk on the balance sheet has not seen a marked increase, notwithstanding the prevailing perception of CFOs that today balance sheets are underleveraged.
2013 Q3 key points
- CFO confidence rallied in the third quarter, introducing a new mood of optimism. CFOs are more optimistic than they have been in the last three years.
- Business conditions have improved and CFOs’ perception of the financial and economic uncertainty has continued to fall. Only a small minority of CFOs expect our economy to enter into a new recession in the next two years.
- Third quarter results have not improved compared to the second quarter: over half of survey participants are not on budget – with little hope to catch up by year-end: 50% report financials will not meet top and bottom line projections.
- The optimistic mood has not yet changed business priorities: risk appetite remains low and defensive strategies remain on top of the agenda.
- CFOs expect a positive impact on investment plans from the economic activity in emerging markets, US and Asia-Pacific region. Prospects for Belgium and the Eurozone are at present not driving investment plans.
- High levels of cash and attractive credit conditions suggest that many corporates have the possibility to invest. Private equity is increasingly looking for investment opportunities.
About the CFO Survey
The Deloitte CFO survey is the only survey of major corporate users of capital which gauges the attitudes of the CFO towards valuations, risks and financing. The survey, which takes place every quarter, brings the views of CFOs to a wide audience in the media and among policy makers. Most importantly we believe that the survey is a valuable benchmark for CFOs in gauging the views of their peers.