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Revenue, capex and hiring projections strong in Ireland
Deloitte CFO Survey
The Deloitte CFO Survey is the only survey that seeks to establish the views of CFOs in relation to the financial markets, economic outlook and business trends now published biannually.
CFO survey overview
· Outlook for hiring strongest in Ireland; over half of CFOs expect to increase job numbers
· Irish CFOs most optimistic as European business confidence heads south overall
· Irish CFOs see general election having a positive impact on education and labour
Over half (55%) of CFOs in Ireland expect to increase job numbers, according to Deloitte’s latest European CFO Survey. Furthermore, 8 out of 10 expect revenues to rise over the next twelve months, and 7 out of 10 expect capital spending to increase.
The biannual survey, which collated the results of surveys run by Deloitte member firms in 15 European countries, analysed the views of 1,298 chief financial officers (CFOs). Findings shows a distinct shift within Europe with companies in the south and periphery of the continent more confident and willing to take risk than those in northern countries.
64% of European CFOs expect their company’s revenues to rise in the next twelve months, down slightly from 67% in Q1. Optimism about revenues is highest in Italy, where 84% expect revenues to rise, Ireland (82%) and Spain (75%). They are lowest in Austria and France (42%), Netherlands (44%) and Norway (51%).
Overall, 41% of CFOs say they expect their company to increase capital expenditure in the next twelve months, with 15% expecting a decrease. 70% of CFOs in Ireland expect capital spending to increase, followed by Italy (58%) and Spain (54%). The smallest increases in capital expenditure are forecast in Norway (29%), France (30%) and Russia (33%).
On average, 35% of CFOs expect the number of employees in their company to increase over the next 12 months, with 22% expecting a decline. The outlook for hiring is strongest in Ireland, where 55% of CFOs expect to increase job numbers, the UK (47%) and Spain (46%). The smallest increases in hiring are forecast in the Netherlands (12%), Austria (17%) and Russia (24%).
Irish optimism highest in Europe
58% of Irish CFOs report growing optimism about the financial prospects for their company, the highest level in Europe. Overall, 25% of European CFOs say they are more optimistic about the financial prospects for their company than they were three to six months ago, down from 33% in the first quarter of 2015. Those saying they are less optimistic has risen from 18% in Q1 to 23% in Q3.
Southern and peripheral European countries report higher levels of optimism than in northern countries. In addition to Irish CFOs, a high proportion of CFOs in Spain (54%), Poland (50%) and Portugal (47%) also more optimistic. Optimism is weakest in northern European economies with just 14% of CFOs in both France and Norway saying they are more optimistic, followed by Germany and the UK (both 18%).
Risk appetite drops overall; highest in Italy and Ireland
Risk appetite has declined - just 33% of European CFOs say now is a good time to take risk onto their balance sheets, down from 38% in Q1. Risk appetite is highest in Italy, where 56% of CFOs say now is a good time to take risks, followed by Ireland (48%), the UK and Spain (both 47%). Risk appetite is lowest in Norway and Germany, in both countries just 20% say now is a good time to take risks, followed by the Netherlands (21%) France and Austria (both 22%).
Uncertainty rises; remains relatively low in Ireland
Perceptions of uncertainty have risen among CFOs, 66% say there is a high level of financial and economic uncertainty facing their business, up from 60% in Q1. Perceptions of uncertainty are highest in Germany (87%), the Netherlands (84%) and Switzerland (75%). They are much lower in Norway, where 22% of CFOs say there is a high level of uncertainty, Poland (36%) and Ireland (38%).
Bank borrowing preferred to equity financing
On average, 65% of CFOs view bank borrowing as an attractive source of financing, with 14% viewing it as unattractive, unchanged from Q1. However, 25% of CFOs say equity is an attractive source of funding, down from 35% in Q1, with 36% saying equity is unattractive, up from 28% in Q1. In Ireland, bank borrowing (domestic and overseas) and corporate bonds are deemed most attractive.
Cost control a high business priority
When asked to outline their business priorities for the coming year, CFOs in 12 out of 14 of the countries responding rated cost reduction and cost control as a top three priority, with seven countries citing it as their top priority. This is true even countries such as Italy, Ireland and Portugal with high levels of optimism and risk appetite. The top two business priorities in Ireland are organic growth and cost control.
Positive impact expected on education and labour following general election
Specifically in Ireland, CFOs expect any resulting policy changes following the general election to be most positive in the areas of education and labour quality (55%), the labour market (52%), and on fiscal policy (52%). The level of regulation affecting business (30%) and tax (23%) are the areas CFOs believe any change will most likely have a negative effect.
Alan Flanagan, Partner, Deloitte, said:
“This survey shows concerns about global growth have had a marked effect on sentiment in northern Europe, but we are seeing a rebalancing of prospects within Europe from north to south. Since Q1 Europe has experienced another Greek debt crisis and concerns have increased over the strength of the global economic recovery, in particular prospects for emerging markets such as China. This has created a sense of heightened uncertainty among Europe’s CFOs.
“Sentiment has fallen most in northern European economies - including France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom - consistent with the weaker export outlook for these countries. In contrast, Ireland’s economy is likely to become the fastest growing economy in the EU for the second year in a row. As a result, the findings show that Irish CFOs are now refocusing on the opportunities that come with more favourable economic conditions. Organic growth is a higher priority over the next 12 months as opposed to expansion by acquisition, with the introduction of new products and services or expanding into new markets a top priority. Encouragingly, hiring prospects are also strong amongst Irish CFO respondents.
“From a CFO perspective, as growth returns, the ability of the finance function to provide the organisation with insightful management reporting is becoming more important. CFOs want to understand whether the investments they are making are targeted correctly to deliver sustainable and profitable growth. Clear, timely finance reporting, developed by commercially astute finance teams working with accurate data, the right mix of KPIs, can deliver this insight.”
About the CFO survey
The Deloitte European CFO Survey collates the findings of surveys conducted by Deloitte member firms in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
In total, 1,298 CFOs took part in these surveys, conducted between July and October 2015.
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 15 participating countries.
The full survey results, including country-by-country breakdowns, and previous surveys are available to view at www.deloitteresearchemea.com. The Q3 2015 Deloitte Ireland CFO Survey is available at www.deloitte.com/ie.
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