Deloitte’s European CFO Survey: Cautious optimism across Europe’s businesses – Pessimism in Switzerland
Zurich, 18 May 2015
One third of Europe’s CFOs say that their optimism about financial prospects for their company has improved in the past three months according to Deloitte’s first European CFO Survey. Amongst the 14 countries included in the survey, optimism in Switzerland is the lowest, and the trend is downward, contrary to other countries.
The survey, which collated the results of surveys run by Deloitte member firms in 14 European countries, including Switzerland, analysed the views of over 1,300 CFOs. On average, 33% say they are more optimistic, compared to 18% who are less positive about their company’s outlook. Optimism is lowest in Switzerland where the net balance of optimism stands at -58%, followed by Norway (-25%) and France (-11%). CFOs in in Spain are the most positive (67%), followed by Finland (34%) and The Netherlands (33%). Levels of optimism are higher among countries in the Eurozone (20%) than countries outside it (4%).
A net 55% say that their businesses are faced with high levels of uncertainty while a net 23% say that now is not a good time to be taking risks onto their balance sheets. The CFOs of Switzerland and Germany perceive the highest level of uncertainty and are also more risk-averse than their counterparts in many other countries. Despite this, a net 51% of CFOs overall expect revenues for their business to improve in the next 12 months, with a net 21% expecting operating margins to improve.
Cautious optimism in Europe – pure pessimism in Switzerland
The Swiss outlook is the worst of all countries as two of three CFOs (65%) expect revenues to fall and 83% margins to drop as well. While revenue optimism stands at 67% in Eurozone countries, it is lower at 62% in non-Eurozone countries. Similarly on operating margins, 50% are positive in Eurozone countries, compared to 34% in non-Eurozone countries.
Michael Grampp, European CFO Survey Lead and Chief Economist at Deloitte in Switzerland, said: “CFOs are still demonstrating caution in their business strategies, prioritising cost-cutting and control, a trend we have observed for many years and which now looks to be continuing in 2015. This is most evident in the non-Eurozone where country-specific events, such as the removal of the currency floor in Switzerland, are curbing business optimism. Though less so in non-Eurozone countries – and especially in Switzerland –, CFOs are broadly more optimistic about growing revenues and improved operating margins.”
Views on the Euro and the Eurozon
An average of 8% favour dissolving the Euro (3% in Eurozone countries, 17% in non-Eurozone countries and 11% in Switzerland) while an average of 41% say that reducing the number of Eurozone members would improve growth (32% in Eurozone countries, 55% in non-Eurozone countries and 58% in Switzerland). 36% of CFOs in Eurozone countries are in favour of redistributing political powers to national governments, compared to 67% in non-Eurozone countries.
CFOs believe more national structural reforms will improve competitiveness in Europe, as 93% say this will be effective or very effective in supporting growth. Increasing public and pan-European investment spending also rates highly, with 83% of CFOs saying it would help growth, and 56% calling for an end to austerity measures.
CFOs’ strategic priorities – and risks facing their businesses
Asked to rate their five most urgent strategic priorities, CFOs show that they remain on the defensive. Cost control is identified as either the first or second biggest priority for CFOs in 11 out of 12 countries responding to this question. This is followed by organic expansion and introducing new products and services. Increasing capital expenditure is only mentioned as a top-five priority by CFOs in six countries, and even then this ranks as only the fourth or fifth most important strategy.
When asked to rate the most significant risks facing their business, CFOs across Europe generally ranked geopolitical risk, potential declines in domestic or foreign demand and increases in regulations as their biggest worries. Internal business risks, including the availability of skilled workers and the cost of labour generally rated lower.
Chris Gentle, Head of EMEA Research at Deloitte, said: “Good news on Europe’s economy has been in short supply but major companies, particularly in the Eurozone, are now beginning to see a brighter future. Uncertainty, largely driven by geopolitical and wider economic risks, is still on the rise and could still weaken CFOs’ confidence in making business investment decisions. This provides an ominous reminder that the business recovery is not assured.”
About the Deloitte European CFO Survey
The first edition of the European CFO Survey collated the results of CFO Surveys run by Deloitte member firms in 14 European countries, including Switzerland. In total, the survey analysed the views of over 1,300 CFOs.
View the full European CFO Survey results
Deloitte in Switzerland
Deloitte is a leading accounting and consulting company in Switzerland and provides industry-specific services in the areas of audit, tax, consulting and corporate finance. With approximately 1,300 employees at six locations in Basel, Berne, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano and Zurich (headquarters), Deloitte serves companies and institutions of all legal forms and sizes in all industry sectors. Deloitte AG is a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP, the UK member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL). DTTL member firms comprise of approximately 210,000 employees in more than 150 countries around the world.
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The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.