DAVOS, Switzerland, 2013-01-22 18:30 CET (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Only 36% of CEOs
worldwide are ´very confident´ of their company´s growth prospects in the next
12 months, according to PwC´s 16th Annual Global CEO Survey. That´s down from
40% who were ´very confident´ of short term growth last year and 48% in 2011,
but still above the lows of 31% and 21% in 2010 and 2009.
Looking at the economy generally, 28% of CEOs say the global economy will
decline further in 2013, and only 18% predict economic improvement; 52% say it
will stay the same. While the CEOs´ outlook remains gloomy, the forecast is an
improvement on last year when 48% of CEOs predicted the global economy would
decline in 2012.
CEOs in Western Europe were least confident of short term revenue growth. Faced
with ongoing recession, just 22% of Western European CEOs said they were very
confident of growth, down from 27% last year and 39% in 2011. Confidence in
short term growth also declined in North America to 33% (42% in 2012) and in
Asia Pacific to 36% (42% in 2012). Even in Africa, seen by many as the next
high-growth economy, CEO confidence in company growth slipped to 44%, from 57%
Latin American CEOs, however, bucked the trend. Their short term confidence
rose to 53% of CEOs, up slightly from last year.
At the country level, confidence varied widely: CEOs are most confident in
Russia where 66% are very confident of revenue growth in 2013, closely followed
by India (63%) and Mexico (62%). They were trailed by countries including
Brazil (44%), China
(40%), Germany (31%), the US (30%), the UK (22%), Japan
(18%), France (13%) and finally Korea, where only 6% of CEOs are very confident
of revenue growth in the year ahead. [see note 2]
Longer term, overall CEO confidence remained stable; 46% of CEOs worldwide said
they were very confident of growth prospects in the next three years, about the
same as last year. CEOs in Africa and the Middle East were most confident of
long term growth, at 62% and 56% respectively. In North America, 51% were ´very
confident´ of long term growth, while 52% in Asia Pacific were very confident.
Long term confidence was weakest in Europe at 34%.
Releasing the survey results on the first day of the World Economic Forum
annual meeting in Davos, Dennis M. Nally, Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers
´CEOs remain cautious about their short term prospects and the outlook for the
global economy. However, given the high levels of concern among CEOs about
issues - such as over-regulation, government debt, capital market instability -
it is no surprise that CEO confidence has declined in the last 12 months.
´We find CEOs working to deal with the ongoing risks. Strategically, CEOs
continue to refine their operations, looking to cut costs without reducing
value as they manage through sluggish times. They are seeking growth
opportunities organically, avoiding large outlays that could strap resources
for the future. Most important, they have a clear focus on customers,
collaborating with them more closely than ever on programmes to stimulate
demand, loyalty and joint innovation, ´ he said.
What worries CEOs most?
As the difficult economic conditions persist, CEOs are generally more worried
about a wider range of issues than they were a year ago. Top of the list, a
concern among 81% of CEOs about continuing uncertainty over economic growth.
Sending a clear message to governments around the world, other key CEO worries
are the government response to the fiscal deficit (71%), over-regulation (69%)
and lack of stability in capital markets (61%). CEO concerns about
over-regulation are at their highest since 2006. When asked directly about the
government response to the regulatory burden, CEOs are even more blunt, with
just 12% agreeing that their government has reduced the regulatory burden in
the last year.
When asked about the major threats to their business growth, CEOs also cited
the increasing tax burden (62%), availability of key skills (58%) and the cost
of energy and raw materials (52%).
Dealing with disruption
In order to build organisations that can survive and thrive amid disorder, CEOs
are pursuing three specific strategies: targeting pockets of opportunity,
concentrating on the customer and improving operational effectiveness:
1. Targeting pockets of opportunity
Some 68% of CEOs are focusing on carefully selected initiatives. They´re
weighing up all their options, making a few smart investments and consolidating
their resources to maximize the odds of success.
Where CEOs see pockets of opportunity, nearly half are pinning their hopes on
growth within existing markets, while only 25% are turning to new product
development. And only 17% of CEOs are planning new mergers and acquisitions.
For those CEOs planning an M&A, the top target regions are North America and
Western Europe, with some evidence that CEOs are looking to take advantage of
some difficult economic times to find a bargain.
China topped the list of countries seen overall as most important for future
growth, cited by 31% of CEOs, followed by the US (23%), Brazil (15%), Germany
(12%), and India (10%). Indonesia was listed among the top ten for the first
time this year, two points above Japan. Among large companies (over US$10
billion), however, China was viewed as most important by 45% while the US
dropped to 20%
2. Concentrating on the customer
Nearly half the CEOs (49%) see shifts in consumer buying patterns as a serious
business threat and 51% said their top investment priority for the next 12
months was growing their customer base. 82% of CEOs anticipate making changes
to their customer growth and retention strategies - and 31% have major changes
3. Improving operational effectiveness
Improving operational effectiveness is a top investment priority for CEOs. 77%
have undertaken cost reduction initiatives in the past 12 months and 70% plan
to do so in the next 12 months.
But CEOs are wary about inadvertently cutting value. One indicator: 48% of CEOs
have increased their company´s headcount during the past 12 months, while 25%
have kept it at the same level.
Jobs and the search for talent
CEOs remain relatively cautious on plans for increasing headcount for this
coming year. 45% of CEOs plan to recruit in 2013 (down from 51% in 2012) while
23% plan to reduce the size of their workforce.
Looking at which industries are recruiting and which are shedding jobs shows an
interesting picture. CEOs most likely to be increasing headcount are in
business services (56%), engineering and construction (52%), retail (49%) and
healthcare (43%); while the biggest number of CEOs planning headcount
reductions are in banking (35%), the metal industries (32%) and forestry and
Whatever their hiring outlook, finding and keeping the right people remains a
major challenge for CEOs. Availability of key skills was ranked by CEOs as a
major threat to growth prospects, cited by 58% worldwide. The skills threat was
especially acute among smaller companies and in high growth areas like Africa,
the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
And the CEOs most concerned about the skills shortage were those in mining
(75%), engineering and construction (65%), communications (65%), technology
(64%) and insurance (64%).
In view of all this, it is unsurprising that more than three quarters (77%) of
CEOs said they anticipate making changes in their company´s strategies for
managing talent during the next 12 months, and nearly a quarter (23%) said they
expect the changes to be major.
Addressing public trust
CEOs also recognise the need to build trust with a wider set of stakeholders.
37% worry that lack of trust in their industry could endanger their company´s
growth, and 57% plan to focus more heavily on promoting an ethical culture. In
addition, nearly half of CEOs (49%) plan to put more effort into reducing their
environmental footprint in the next 12 months.
Notes to editors:
1. Survey Methodology:
For PwC´s 16th Annual Global CEO Survey, 1,330 interviews were conducted in 68
countries during the last quarter of 2012. By region, 449 interviews were
conducted in Asia Pacific, 312 in Western Europe, 227 in North America, 165 in
Latin America, 95 in Central & Eastern Europe, 50 in Africa and 32 in the
The full survey report with supporting graphics can be downloaded at
2. List of country/regional CEOs expressing they were very confident of
12 month growth: Russia (66%), India (63%), Mexico (62%), Middle East (53%),
Africa (52%), South Africa (45%), Brazil (44%), Canada (42%), Romania (42%),
ASEAN (40%), China/Hong Kong (40%), Germany (31%), Australia (30%), US (30%),
Venezuela (30%), Argentina (26%), UK (22%), Italy (21%), Scandinavia (20%),
Spain (20%), Japan (18%), Switzerland (18%), France (13%), Korea (6%).
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