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Deloitte CFO Survey: Expansion is back

30 September 2013

  • Corporate risk appetite reaches a six-year high, uncertainty hits a three-year low
  • Expansion outranks cost control and cash conservation as top priority for CFOs
  • CFOs buoyed by stronger outlook for growth in UK and Europe
  • CFO confidence rises for fifth consecutive quarter

    Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) of big businesses are turning decisively toward expansion and growth according to the latest Deloitte CFO Survey.

    The third quarter 2013 CFO Survey, which gauged the views of 116 CFOs, including FTSE 100 companies and FTSE 250 companies, shows that optimism is close to a three year high.

    For the first time since 2011 expansion is a higher priority for CFOs than cutting costs and building up cash.

    29% of CFOs said that reducing costs is a strong priority for their business, with 35% saying the same about increasing cash flow, down from a peak of 49% in Q4 2012.

    40% of CFOs say that introducing new products and services or expanding into new markets is a strong priority while expectations for hiring, capital expenditure and discretionary spending in the coming 12 months are also at a three-year high.

    54% of CFOs said that now is a good time to take risk on their balance sheets, up from 45% in Q2 and the highest level recorded in six years.

    62% of CFOs say that their business faces a high level of financial and economic uncertainty, down from a high of 97% in Q4 2011. CFOs see just an 8% probability of a country leaving the euro, down from 37% in Q4 2011.

    CFOs are expecting growth in the UK and euro area to provide a boost to their investment plans. CFOs cited growth in the UK as one of the main factors supporting investment in the coming 12 months, ahead of growth in emerging markets or in the US and Asia.

    82% of CFOs expect UK interest rates to rise by 2015. CFOs are sceptical that the Bank of England’s new forward guidance policy will keep interest rates on hold well into 2016.

    Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said:

    “A new mood of confidence pervades the third quarter CFO Survey. Chief Financial Officers see fewer risks in the global economy and greater opportunities for expansion.

    “The defensive strategies of cost cutting and cash accumulation that saw corporates through the global financial crisis are increasingly out of favour. The priority now is expansion and the balance-sheet cycle has turned decisively towards growth.

    “CFOs have become markedly more positive on prospects for growth in the developed world. There’s greater confidence too, that the euro will hold together.

    “Emerging markets are a vital source of demand but CFOs are also looking to Europe for expansion. In a reversal of the situation six months ago, CFOs believe that UK growth will have a more positive effect on their investment plans in the next year than growth in emerging markets or in the US, Japan and Asia Pacific.

    ”A record 54% of CFOs say that now is a good time to take risk onto their balance sheet. High levels of corporate cash and favourable credit conditions suggest that major corporates have the firepower to invest.

    “The mood among corporates has been transformed in the last year. This quarter’s survey reveals a broad-based optimism and a new focus on growth among the UK’s largest businesses.”

End

Notes to editors

About the Deloitte CFO Survey
This is the 25th quarterly survey of chief financial officers and group finance directors of major companies in the UK.

The Q3 2013 survey took place between 6th and 23rd September.

116 CFOs participated, including CFOs of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies. The rest were CFOs of other UK listed companies, large private companies and UK subsidiaries of major companies listed overseas.

The Deloitte CFO Survey is the only survey of major corporate users of capital that gauges attitudes to valuations, risk and financing.

For copies of previous CFO Surveys, please visit www.deloitte.co.uk/cfosurvey.

About Deloitte
In this press release references to Deloitte are references to Deloitte LLP, which is among the country's leading professional services firms.

Deloitte LLP is the United Kingdom member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”), a UK private company limited by guarantee, whose member firms are legally separate and independent entities. Please see www.deloitte.co.uk/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

Member of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

“A new mood of confidence pervades the third quarter CFO Survey. Chief Financial Officers see fewer risks in the global economy and greater opportunities for expansion." - Ian Stewart, Chief Economist at Deloitte

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