Economic outlook & predictions for 2022 from Central Europe’s CFOs
Back on track for expansion
Since 2010 the Deloitte Central Europe CFO survey has enabled the opinions of more than 600 of the region’s Chief Financial Officers to be heard, providing an overview of their plans and concerns, the key threats and priorities they identify, their attitude to risk and the factors they currently consider vital for success.
In this year’s report, the region’s CFOs are broadly more optimistic than they were 12 months ago, when economies were in the harshest grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. While they still see uncertainty as the new normal, and do not regard this as the right time to take any unnecessary risks, they nonetheless remain positive about investment, expect unemployment to fall, and believe their financial outlook is brightening. In other words, the conditions for expansion are making a return. At the same time, they anticipate further rises in CPI inflation that in turn will fuel increases in the costs of doing business.
- The average expected GDP growth for 2022 is 2.3%, compared to 0.25% in 2021 and to 2.0% in 2020. There has been a 30pp increase in the proportion of CFOs expecting GDP to reach more than 2.5%.
- When compared with their predictions for 2021 (opinions were gathered in late 2020), CFOs who shared their opinion for this edition of the report are definitely more optimistic. While 68% expected an increase in 2021, 33% expect unemployment to rise in 2022.
- As in previous years, the majority of CFOs: 91% in 2022, expect an increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation (62% in 2021 and 83% in 2020). This prediction reflects also sentiments in the EU (91%) and Eurozone (94%) countries.
Business Environment Outlook
- The survey recorded a slight decrease, since last year, in the perceived levels of uncertainty facing respondents’ businesses. Despite the improved outlook, levels of uncertainty remain elevated across the region, with 50% of CFOs reporting above normal levels of external uncertainty.
- The share of respondents who believe there is a high level of uncertainty has dropped by 7 percentage points (pp) – from 57% in 2021 to 50% in 2022. Majority of respondents in EU (51%) and the Eurozone (53%) also expect high level of uncertainty.
- Just like in 2021, respondents participating in the 2022 survey expect a further and considerable increase of costs in all the categories. As much as 95% of respondents expect that cost of workforce will increase in 2022.
- Shortage of skilled professionals over the next 12 months is a source of concern for 64% of CFOs. It recorded the highest (31pp) increase percentagewise since 2021.
- As in previous years, the majority of CFOs do not think the year ahead will be a good time for companies to take on more risk; this was the view of 71% of respondents (down by 8pp from 2021). CFOs from the Eurozone and EU countries are equally risk-averse.
- Similar to 2020 and 2021, CFOs see internal financing and bank borrowing as the most attractive sources of funding for their companies in 2022.
- Across the Central European region, and similarly to 2021, a majority of CFOs (55%), anticipate the level of M&A transactions to increase in 2022.
Company Growth Outlook
- CFOs participating in this year’s edition of the survey, are only slightly less optimistic than they were last year. 40% of CFOs are optimistic about financial prospect for their companies.
- CFOs’ revenue expectations over the next 12 months brightened. 68% of CFOs expect higher revenues, and only 15% reduced ones.
- As in the previous year, there is pretty even division between predictions for operating margins that businesses will achieve over the next 12 months. 37% of CFOs expect operating margins to increase, 31% predict it will stay at the same level and 32% anticipate it will decrease.
- Expectations about capital expenditures (CAPEX) over the next 12 months have improved slightly. About half (46%) the CFOs are planning an increase and only 13% are expecting to reduce their CAPEX spend.
- The survey results also reveal that CFOs revised up their plans for future employment considerably when compared with last year. 40% of CFOs expect to expand the number of employees over the next 12 months, while only 13% assume a reduction.
- CFOs’ views on their companies’ ability to service debt over the next three years remains largely unchanged, with 92% expecting it either to increase or remain the same.
- Similar to last year, cost reduction is set to be a priority for businesses in 2022, with 20% of CFOs putting it at the top of their agendas.
- The next 12 months are unlikely to bring significant changes to companies’ gearing levels: 49% of CFOs expect no change in this area.
About the Central European CFO Survey
Since 2010 Deloitte has conducted the Central European CFO survey, giving voice to senior financial executives from across the region. The data for the 2022 report was collected between October and December 2021 and garnered responses from more than 600 CFOs in 15 countries and across a wide range of industries.