European CFO Survey Q3 2017
CFOs switch focus to the longer term
Welcome to the sixth edition of the Deloitte European CFO Survey, an important initiative of the Deloitte EMEA CFO Programme. This edition presents the opinions from almost 1,550 CFOs across 19 European countries, giving you access to national and cross border data linked to current sentiment and planned strategies.
CFO confidence is boosted as uncertainty declines
A more positive economic environment has driven the rise in optimism and the decrease of uncertainy for Europe’s CFOs:
· This quarter shows a net balance of 32% of CFOs who are more optimistic than pessimistic, the highest amount reached since the beginning of the series. It is also the first time since Q1 2015 that, in all countries, CFOs who are optimistic about financial prospects outnumber those who are pessimistic
· The political shifts that affected the results in the Q1 2017 survey have now stabilised: this is reflected in a lower perception of uncertainty among CFOs. As well, growth outcomes have exceeded expectations and consumer confidence (as measured by the OECD’s Consumer Confidence Index) is at a ten-year high
· However, we do see a divide between those based in the euro area and those who are not, with the latter markedly less positive about the future. As well, perceptions of uncertainty are higher among CFOs in large businesses than in small and medium-size enterprises. The most prominent concerns among big-company CFOs relate to issues that might lead to disruption in international trade.
Positive expectations for revenues and margins
· CFOs also remain optimistic about revenue prospects for their companies, with more than two-thirds of CFOs expecting their companies’ revenues to grow.
· Expectations for revenue growth are generally greater than for improving profit margins; the net balance of CFOs who expect revenues to increase is more than twice as high as for those expecting margins to increase. Thus, pressure on margins is expected to increase in spite of increasing revenues
· There are also differences in CFOs’ expectations for revenues and profit margins according to industry, with CFOs in manufacturing the most optimistic. Financial services CFOs are in keeping with the average, but CFOs in technology, media and telecoms (TMT) and energy and resources give a more pessimistic view.
The focus for Europe’s CFOs is now long term
· CFOs have turned their focus to the long term and looking at growth prospects. The survey shows that there is a stronger willingness to invest: both CAPEX and hiring intentions are higher than in previous quarter, and expansionary strategies are increasingly among CFOs top priorities, with defensive ones less prominent. This has resulted in perceived risks being much ‘closer to home’, with concerns about labour costs and potential skill shortages being much more prominent
· A slight majority of CFOs consider that interest rates will increase over the next 12 months. While the majority of CFOs believe these changes will be too small to have a significant effect on their business, some CFOs responded that their financing strategy would change, with most pointing to a reduction in their leverage ratio (9%) or an overall reduction in debt.