UK CFOs shrug off Grexit risks and back EU membership
6 July 2015
- Despite Grexit uncertainties, corporate risk appetite rises and uncertainty drops. UK business at its most expansionary in four years
- Three-quarters of CFOs want the UK to stay in the EU, 2% favour Brexit
- 23% of CFOs say their view on membership will depend on the outcome of the UK’s renegotiation
- Interest rate rises and Euro area weakness top list of CFOs’ concerns
Conducted against a backdrop of an escalating crisis in Greece, Deloitte’s latest survey of Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) shows a rebound in risk appetite and a marked shift to expansion among large UK corporates.
The survey also found a clear majority of CFOs of the UK’s largest businesses support the UK’s continued membership of the European Union.
The Deloitte CFO Survey for Q2 2015 gauges the views of 122 CFOs of FTSE 350 and other large private UK companies.
55% of CFOs say the level of financial and economic uncertainty is above normal, high or very high, down from 63% in Q1 2015. Corporate risk appetite has improved, 59% of CFOs say now is a good time to take risk onto their balance sheets, up from a two year low of 51% in Q1.
CFOs’ business strategies have turned toward expansion. The proportion of CFOs focusing on expansion is the highest since Q1 2011. 41% of CFOs say introducing new products and services or expanding into new markets is a strong priority for the next 12 months, up from 28% in Q1. 66% of CFOs expect UK businesses to increase capital expenditure in the next 12 months, with 70% expecting hiring to increase.
87% of CFOs say that credit for UK corporates is cheap with the same percentage saying credit is easily available.
Asked to rate the level of risk to their business (on a scale of 0 to 100), CFOs give a score of 49 to both higher interest rates in the UK and US and economic weakness in Europe and a potential Euro crisis. The UK’s referendum on EU membership is rated at 45, down from 56 in Q1, alongside weak demand in the UK. The UK’s productivity rate is given a score of 40, the second lowest of all factors.
74% of CFOs say it is in the interests of UK business to remain in the EU, while 2% favour the UK leaving.
91% of CFOs say UK export performance has benefited from membership of the EU, 89% say it has attracted foreign direct investment and 78% say the free movement of people is advantageous. However, 57% say the EU legal, regulatory and compliance framework is a burden for UK business.
The results of the UK's renegotiation of its relationship with the EU are set to have a significant effect on corporate attitudes to the EU. 23% of CFOs say that their judgement about membership will depend on the results of the discussions with the EU.
A majority of CFOs expect the Government’s renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU to deliver positive results in all seven areas identified by the Government. Sentiment is most positive about the scope for the Government to be able to tighten benefit rules and reduce excessive regulation. 83% of CFOs think the negotiations will benefit the UK by tightening controls on welfare payments for EU migrants and 76% expect to see a reduction in Brussels “red tape”.
Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said:
“CFOs have shrugged off the effects of the recent sell-off in equity markets and the escalating crisis in Greece. The fears about uncertainty that dampened corporate spirits in the run up to the General Election have also fallen away.
“Risk appetite is on the rise, uncertainty has fallen and CFOs enter the second half of the year in expansionary mode. Our survey suggests the UK recovery is regaining momentum.
“After years of easy monetary policy CFOs are contemplating the prospect of higher interest rates in the UK and the US. CFOs rate higher interest rates as the top risk to their business, tying with the danger of renewed euro area weakness. CFOs clearly believe that the era of ultra-lose monetary policy is drawing to an end. This shift in thinking is consistent with the marked rise in government bond yields and an upward drift in interest rate expectations seen through the second quarter.”
David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte, said:
“CFOs are more relaxed about the referendum than they were before May, perhaps a sign they believe the vote will endorse continued membership.
“While there is a clear desire among CFOs for the UK to remain a member of the EU, there can be little doubt that they see opportunities to establish a more advantageous relationship for the UK. CFOs are hopeful that renegotiation will deliver benefits for the UK, particularly through a tightening of benefit rules for EU migrants and reducing ‘red tape’.”
Notes to editors
About the Deloitte CFO Survey
This is the 32nd quarterly survey of Chief Financial Officers and Group Finance Directors of major companies in the UK.
The 2015 Q2 survey took place between 12th and 29th June.
122 CFOs participated, including the CFOs of 24 FTSE 100 and 49 FTSE 250 companies. The rest were CFOs of other UK-listed companies, large private companies and UK subsidiaries of major companies listed overseas. The combined market value of the 73 UK-listed companies surveyed is £499 billion, approximately 22% of the UK quoted equity market.
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.
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.
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