Welcome to the fifth edition of the Deloitte European CFO Survey, a major initiative of the Deloitte EMEA CFO Programme. This edition presents the opinions from almost 1,600 CFOs across 19 European countries, our largest cohort to date, giving access to a wide analysis of national and European market and business sentiment.
As well as covering topics such as risk appetite, financial prospects and strategic priorities, we also ask CFOs about their opinions on the future of the European Union, specifically the likelihood they attribute to further member states voting to leave the union in the next five years, as well as what the EU needs to do in order to guarantee the bloc's success.
An optimistic outlook
Political shifts and external risks that have dominated headlines for the past two years led to ongoing uncertainty for CFOs. The Q1 2017 survey results shift, with corporates across Europe now more optimistic about their business prospects.
The data presented in this report shows encouraging evidence of their heightened optimism: a net balance of +25% of Europe's CFOs reported higher degrees of optimism when asked about the financial prospects for their firms compared to three/six months ago. This rise in optimism in 17 of the 19 countries polled has come at a time when CFOs' perceptions of external uncertainty are falling; although a majority still believe uncertainty to be above normal, this is the third consecutive quarter where perceptions of uncertainty have fallen.
Crucially, the improved outlook for Europe is also being reflected in CFOs adopting a much more positive attitude towards strengthening their company's performance. Encouraging signs include increased risk appetite, a shift towards capital expenditure, an upwards swing in hiring and a positive outlook for revenues and margins.
A post-Brexit world: What's next for the EU?
Following the UK's vote to leave the EU, we asked CFOs what likelihood they attributed to further member states voting to leave or leaving the union in the next five years. CFOs attributed an average probability of 33% for further exits, with the vast majority of CFOs surveyed viewing a further break-up of the union as unlikely, but not impossible.
However, for the EU to succeed, 81% of CFOs believe that some form of increased integration in Europe is needed, with 42% preferring increased integration among certain member states (the 'multi-speed' option) and 39% supporting increased integration for the union overall. Only 7% believe the status quo will prove sustainable. Interestingly, there were some clear splits in opinion evident at a country level.
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