CEOs Less Optimistic about Global Economy for 2015

CEOs Less Optimistic about Global Economy for 2015

But Confidence in Growth of Their Own Companies Remains Steady
United States has overtaken China as top target for growth for the first time in five years. Russian CEOs go from most confident in 2014 to least in 2015

NEW DELHI, INDIA– 20 January 2015 – Fewer CEOs than last year think global economic growth will improve over the next 12 months, though confidence in their ability to achieve revenue growth in their own companies remains stable, say the more than 1,300 CEOs interviewed in PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey. Results of the survey were released today at the opening of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Global Economy
CEOs are less optimistic about global growth prospects than a year ago, with 37% of CEOs thinking global economic growth will improve in 2015. This is down from 44% last year. Significantly, 17% of CEOs believe global economic growth will decline, more than twice as many as a year ago (7%). The remaining 44% expect economic conditions to remain steady.

Regionally, the results show wide variations. CEOs in Asia Pacific are the most optimistic about the global economy with 45% anticipating improvement, followed by the Middle East (44%) and North America (37%). On the other hand, only 16% of CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe expect economic improvement. CEOs in emerging economies like India (59%), China (46%) and

Mexico (42%) are more optimistic about the economy than those in developed economies like the US (29%) and Germany (33%).

Revenue Growth
Despite the overall declining outlook for the global economy, CEOs remain confident about prospects for their own company; 39% worldwide said they are ‘very confident’ their company’s revenues will grow in the next 12 months. That’s the same as last year; though up slightly from 36% in 2013.

CEOs in the Asia Pacific region (45%) are most confident of revenue growth, about the same as last year. The Middle East is still one of the most optimistic regions with 44% of CEOs very confident of revenue growth, although this is down markedly from last year’s 69%. CEO confidence in growth is higher in North America, rising to 43% from 33%. CEOs in Western Europe (31%) and Central and Eastern Europe (30%) are least optimistic about their company’s growth prospects.

Looking country by country, India’s CEOs top the list, with 62% very confident in their short-term growth prospects. Other leading countries include Mexico (50%), the US (46%), Australia (43%) the UK and South Africa (39%), China (36%), Germany (35%) and Brazil (30%). Among the least confident countries are France (23%), Venezuela (22%), Italy (20%), Argentina (17%) and, at the bottom of the list, Russia, with only 16% of CEOs very confident of revenue growth for 2015. This is down from 53% last year when Russia’s CEOs were the most confident in the world.

Commenting on the survey results, Dennis M. Nally, Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International, says:

“The world is facing significant challenges: economically, politically and socially. CEOs overall remain cautious in their near-term outlook for the worldwide economy, as well as for growth prospects for their own companies. While some mature markets like the US appear to be rebounding, others like the Eurozone continue to struggle. And while some emerging economies continue to expand rapidly, others are slowing. Finding the right strategic balance to sustain growth in this changing marketplace remains a challenge.

“CEO confidence is down notably in oil-producing nations around the world as a result of plummeting crude oil prices. Russia CEOs, for example, were the most confident in last year's survey, but are the least confident this year. Confidence also slipped among CEOs in the Middle East, Venezuela, and Nigeria”.

Commenting on the India findings, Deepak Kapoor, Chairman, PwC India, says:

“This clear and significant spike in CEO confidence in India is encouraging. There has been a palpable uplift in sentiments among Indian corporates and the survey strengthens the belief that corporate India is on the growth path and engaging in the nation building process.”

Strategies for Growth
CEOs rank the US as their most important market for growth over the next 12 months, placing it ahead of China for the first time since we started asking this question five years ago. Overall, 38% 0f CEOs say the US is among their top-three overseas growth markets, compared with 34% for China, 19% for Germany, 11% for the UK and 10 % for Brazil.

CEOs say they will undertake a number of business strategies to strengthen their companies in the coming 12 months. Overall, 71% say they will cut costs, 51% will form strategic alliances or joint ventures, 31% will outsource a business process or function, and 29% will complete a domestic M&A (up from 23% last year).

What worries CEOs most?
Over-regulation again tops the list of concerns, named by 78% of CEOs worldwide. This is up 6 points from last year and is now at the highest level ever seen in the survey. Countries where concern about over-regulation is particularly high include Argentina (98%), Venezuela (96%), the US (90%), Germany (90%), the UK (87%), and China (85%).

Other top concerns cited by CEOs are availability of key skills (73%), fiscal deficits and debt burdens (72%), geopolitical uncertainty (72%), increasing taxes (70%), cyber threats and the lack of data security (61%) - going up rapidly from 48% last year – as well as social instability (60%), shifting consumer patterns (60%) and the speed of technological change (58%).

CEOs concerns are up in all areas compared to last year with the exception of energy costs where they are slightly down at 59%.

The Competitive Landscape
A third of CEOs worldwide say their company has recently entered or considered entering one or more new industries in the last three years, and more than half (56%) believe that organisations will increasingly compete in new sectors in the next three years. CEOs think a significant competitor is emerging or could emerge from the following sectors: technology (32%), retail and wholesale distribution (19%), and communications, entertainment and media (6%).

CEOs are also using joint ventures, alliances and informal collaborations to gain a competitive edge, working with suppliers (41%), customers (41%), and academia (32%). The top reasons for collaboration are access to new customers, emerging technologies, new markets and innovation.

Working with Government
CEOs say the top priority of government should be maintaining a competitive and efficient tax system, cited by 67% of survey respondents. But only 20% of CEOs said their country is successful in creating such a system. Likewise, access to a skilled workforce is highly valued by 60% of CEOs, but just 21% say enough skilled workers are available in their country. Other government priorities for CEOs include physical infrastructure (49%), affordable capital (29%), and digital infrastructure (28%). One notable issue, reducing the risk of climate change, is given priority by only 6%.

The Digital Age
The emergence of digital technology has completely changed how companies do business; 58% of CEOs are concerned about the speed of technological change compared with 47% last year. Mobile technologies are seen by 81% of CEOs as most important to their company, followed by data mining and analysis (80%), cybersecurity (78%), socially enabled business processes (61%) and cloud computing (60%). Companies get the most benefit from digital technologies in the areas of operating efficiency (88%), data and data analytics (84%) and customer experience (77%).

“CEOs know they must be adaptable to disruptive changes in technology and in their markets. They need to put technology at the core of their business to create value for customers. Finding new ways of thinking and working in this new competitive landscape is critical to success,” concludes Dennis Nally.

Talent Diversity and Adaptability
Half of CEOs around the world say they will increase their headcount over the next 12 months, while 21% expect a decrease (this remains about the same as last year). As CEOs seek to meet the challenge of finding the right people, 81% say they are looking for a broader range of skills. Nearly two-thirds of CEOs’ organisations (64%) have a diversity and inclusiveness strategy – but nearly a third don’t. Or those who have such strategies, 85% say it has improved their bottom line.

Notes to editors:

  1. Survey Methodology:

    For PwC's 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, 1,322 interviews were conducted in 77 countries during the last quarter of 2014. By region, 459 interviews were conducted in Asia Pacific, 455 in Europe, 147 in North America, 167 in Latin America, 49 in Africa and 45 in the Middle East.

    The full survey report with supporting graphics can be downloaded at

  2. List of country/regional CEO saying they are very confident of 12 month growth.
    Very confident of short-term revenue growth
      2015 2014 2013
    India 62% 49% 63%
    Mexico 50% 51% 62%
    ASEAN* 47% 45% 40%
    US 46% 36% 30%
    Romania 44% 39% 42%
    Australia 43% 34% 30%
    Global 39% 39% 36%
    South Africa 39% 25% 45%
    UK 39% 27% 22%
    China/Hong Kong 36% 48% 40%
    Canada 36% 27% 42%
    Germany 35% 33% 31%
    Spain 35% 23% 20%
    Denmark 33% 44% NA
    Brazil 30% 42% 44%
    Japan 27% 27% 18%
    Switzerland 24% 42% 18%
    France 23% 22% 13%
    Venezuela 22% 25% 30%
    Italy 20% 27% 21%
    Argentina 17% 10% 26%
    Russia 16% 53% 66%

    * The ASEAN countries in which interviews were conducted are: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

  3. List of CEOs planning job increases by industry.
    Percentage of CEOs expected to boost headcount in next 12 months (by industry)
      2015 2014 2013
    Asset Management 61% 58% 55%
    Healthcare 59% 53% 43%
    Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences 58% 44% 38%
    Business services 56% 62% 56%
    Technology 55% 63% 44%
    Banking & Capital Markets 53% 52% 44%
    Industrial Manufacturing 53% 46% 36%
    Mining 52% 25% 39%
    Engineering & Construction 51% 51% 52%
    Insurance 50% 59% 39%
    Chemicals 50% 49% 43%
    Transport Logistics 49% 40% 43%
    Automotive 49% 45% 44%
    Retail 46% 51% 49%
    Entertainment & Media 46% 53% 43%
    Hospitality & Leisure 45% 51% 33%
    Metals 41% 22% 28%
    Consumer 40% 46% 40%
    Communications 40% 52% 36%
    Energy 36% 56% 39%
    Power & Utilities 36% 36% 41%
    Forest, Paper & Packaging 27% 45% 32%

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