Optimism varies among global CEOs, but slow economic growth expected in 2015

BY Fraser Tennant

CEOs are less optimistic about the prospects for global growth than they were one year ago, according to PwC’s new Annual Global CEO Survey.

The Survey, the 18th of its kind, conducted 1322 interviews with CEOs in 77 countries during the last quarter of 2014. Its key findings include: (i) 37 percent of CEOs think that global economic growth will improve in 2015, down from 44 percent the previous year; (ii) 17 percent of CEOs believe global economic growth will decline, more than twice as many as a year ago; and (iii) 44 percent of CEOs expect economic conditions to remain constant.

Broken down regionally, CEOs in Asia Pacific were found to the most optimistic about the global economy, with 45 percent expecting improvement. In the Middle East this figure was 44 percent and in North America, 37 percent. However, only 16 percent of CEOs in Central and Eastern Europe expect economic improvement.

Despite the overall declining outlook for the global economy, CEOs are confident about the prospects for their own company - 39 percent believe their company’s revenues will grow in the next 12 months.

“The world is facing significant challenges: economically, politically and socially," said Dennis M. Nally, chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers International. “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. 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.

“Finding the right strategic balance to sustain growth in this changing marketplace remains a challenge.”

Other concerns highlighted by CEOs include: the availability of key skills; over-regulation; fiscal deficits and debt burdens; geopolitical uncertainty; increasing taxes; cyber threats and the lack of data security; social instability; shifting consumer patterns; and the speed of technological change.

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