CFOs fear Brexit will hit business in long-term, claims new survey

BY Fraser Tennant

A challenging and uncertain macroeconomic environment caused by Brexit fears is weighing on UK companies and their job creation and investment plans, according to a new Deloitte survey.

In its ‘CFO Survey: 2019 Q2’ – which features the views of 79 chief financial officers (CFOs) from 48 FTSE 350 companies –  Deloitte reveals that 83 percent of company chief financial officers (CFOs) say they expect the long-term business environment to deteriorate as a result of the UK leaving the European Union (EU). Furthermore, only 4 percent believe the time is right to take greater risk onto their balance sheets.

In terms of the short-term effects of Brexit, pessimism remains elevated, states the report, with 62 percent of CFOs expected to reduce hiring – the highest level in three years – and 25 percent likely to cut their M&A activity. The survey findings also show a drop in confidence among CFOs, with only 9 percent saying they are more optimistic about the prospects for their company than they were three months ago.

“Events in the last three years, and recent news suggesting the economy shrank in the second quarter, have added to worries about the impact of Brexit,” said Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte. “This is not solely a question of the long-term outlook. Brexit has not happened, but it is acting as a drag on corporate sentiment and spending.”

According to the survey, almost two thirds (62 percent) of CFOs expect to reduce hiring in the next three years as a result of Brexit and almost half (47 percent) expect to reduce capital spending, suggesting a cautious approach from businesses.

“Ironically, risk appetite in the corporate sector has slumped just as it has taken off in the equity market,” added Mr Stewart. “Measures of financial market volatility have declined, even though a majority of CFOs rate uncertainty as being at high or very high levels.”

Furthermore, the survey found that UK companies remain focused on defensive strategies with 52 percent citing cost control as a strong priority. Increasing cash flow is also a strong priority for 43 percent of CFOs, down from 52 percent in Q1.

Richard Houston, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte North and South Europe, concluded: “Companies are looking for more certainty around our country’s economic future, as they prepare themselves for a post-Brexit environment.”

Report: Deloitte CFO Survey: 2019 Q2

Effective IT integration key to successful M&A, claims new report

 BY Fraser Tennant

One of the most critical ingredients for successful M&A is a differentiated ability to integrate IT and related systems effectively, according to a new report by Bain & Company.

In its ‘Process and Systems Integration: A New Source of Competitive Advantage’ report, the firm notes that successful post-acquisition IT integration requires investments that many companies fail to make, leading to complexity and spiralling costs further down the line.

Furthermore, Bain & Company’s research states that 70 percent of processes and systems integrations fail in the beginning, not in the end – burdening poor-performing companies with far higher IT costs as a percentage of revenues. The report also notes that companies find it more costly to do the next deal or add new IT applications.

“We have seen that frequent and material M&A activity contributes to higher shareholder returns,” said Laurent Hermoye, a partner at Bain & Company and co-author of the report. “This finding holds up every year, across industries. In order to bring such a repeatable M&A capability, companies need to master the integration of business processes and related systems. Complex deals result in a tedious process and systems integration, with costs that are often underestimated at the time of the due diligence. As a result, process & systems integration can make or break deal value.”

According to the report, there are six key areas companies should focus on when integrating IT systems: (i) align an IT integration thesis to guide the integration effort; (ii) integrate processes and systems with speed; (iii) appropriately allocate resources and budget; (iv) protect digital agenda while advancing integration; (v) adopt best of both IT talent, with consideration for transition needs; and (vi) reassess IT approach and costs at the time of integration.

“Serial acquirers that successfully integrate process and systems have managed to create a ‘secret formula’,” continues Mr Hermoye. “This formula delivers a more efficient and effective integration, creating the optimal set-up for moving on to the next deal.”

Report: Process and Systems Integration: A New Source of Competitive Advantage

Global energy investment stabilises, says new report

BY Fraser Tennant

Global energy investment stabilised in 2018 following three consecutive years of decline – spending on oil, gas and coal supply revived, while energy efficiency and renewables investment stalled – according to a new International Energy Agency (IEA) report.

In its ‘World Energy Investment 2019’ report, the IEA notes that energy investment totalled more than $1.8 trillion in 2018, a level similar to 2017. Furthermore, for the third year in a row, the power sector attracted more investment than the oil and gas industry.

The biggest jump in overall energy investment was in the US, where it was boosted by higher spending in upstream supply, particularly shale, but also electricity networks. The increase narrowed the gap between the US and China, which remained the world’s largest investment destination.

“Energy investments now face unprecedented uncertainties, with shifts in markets, policies and technologies,” said Dr Fatih Birol, executive director at IEA. “But the bottom line is that the world is not investing enough in traditional elements of supply to maintain today’s consumption patterns, nor is it investing enough in cleaner energy technologies to change course. Whichever way you look, we are storing up risks for the future.”

Among major jurisdictions, India had the second largest jump in energy investment in 2018 after the US. At the other end of the scale, the poorest regions of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, face persistent financing risks. Such regions only received around 15 percent of investment in 2018 according to the IEA, even though they account for 40 percent of the global population.

The IEA report also found that public spending on energy research, development and demonstration (RD&D) falls far short of what is needed. And while public energy RD&D spending rose modestly in 2018, led by the US and China, its share of gross domestic product remained flat and most countries are not spending more of their economic output on energy research.

“Current investment trends show the need for bolder decisions required to make the energy system more sustainable,” concludes Dr Birol. “Government leadership is critical to reduce risks for investors in the emerging sectors that urgently need more capital to get the world on the right track.”

Report: World Energy Investment 2019

Bouncing back

BY Richard Summerfield

M&A activity across a number of regions is expected to bounce back in the third quarter of 2019, according to the Q3 2019 issue of the Intralinks Deal Flow Predictor report.

The report forecasts the number of M&A announcements by tracking early-stage M&A activity, defined as new sell-side M&A transactions that are in preparation or have begun their due diligence stage. On average, early-stage deals are six months away from public announcement.

Undoubtedly, the year got off to a disappointing start. The worldwide number of announced M&A deals fell by 17 percent year-over-year in Q1 2019, according to Intralinks — the biggest such decline since 2002 and the sixth largest decline in any quarter for the past 30 years.

However, the outlook for Q3 appears to be much brighter. In North America, for example, M&A deals announced in Q1 2019 fell by 29 percent year-over-year. Yet looking forward, Intralinks’ predictive model anticipates that the number of announced M&A deals is expected to increase by around 3 percent year-on-year over the next six months. Europe, the Middle East and Africa are expected to see growth of around 1 percent. The strongest growth contributions are expected in the real estate, healthcare and technology, media and telecoms (TMT) sectors. France, Germany, Italy and Spain are expected to see the largest increase in M&A announcements.

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is forecast to see growth of around 4 percent. Within APAC, all regions except Southeast Asia and South Korea are demonstrating growth in their volumes of early-stage M&A activity. Looking forward, North Asia (China, Hong Kong), India, Japan and Australasia are expected to make the strongest contributions to APAC’s growth.

In Latin America, however, announced M&A deals are expected to fall by around 6 percent year-on-year. Any growth there is anticipated to occur in the materials, energy and power and TMT sectors. Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru, the largest economies in the Latin American region, are predicted to show year-on-year increases in M&A announcements.

The strongest growth in worldwide deal announcements is expected to come from the real estate, energy & power and financials sectors.

Report: Intralinks Deal Flow Predictor for Q3 2019

Responding to the risk revolution

BY Richard Summerfield               

Due to a challenging economic and trade outlook, companies are finding it increasingly difficult to invest sufficiently in preparing for risk and protecting the continuity of their operations, according to Aon’s 2019 Global Risk Management Survey. Aon surveyed thousands of risk managers across 60 countries and 33 industries to identify the key risks and challenges their organisations are facing.

Economic slowdown is highlighted as the chief risk facing companies today. Others include the possible impact of Brexit, higher US interest rates, slowing growth in Europe, China, Japan and many emerging markets, the highly charged geopolitical climate, and diminishing prospects for further economic expansion in the US.

The escalating China-US trade war is also a cause for concern, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cutting its economic growth forecasts for both countries in October. According to the IMF, growth in the US will slow from 2.9 percent to 2.5 percent in 2019, and China’s GDP would drop to 6.2 percent.

“Companies of all sizes are struggling to prioritise their risk management efforts amid so much change and uncertainty,” said Rory Moloney, chief executive of global risk consulting at Aon. “What was once a tried-and-true strategy for risk mitigation – using the past to predict the future – is now a challenge and coupled with a more competitive global economy, it is causing an all-time low level of risk readiness. As a result, risk management plans need to take a different approach than they have in the past.”

Damage to a brand’s reputation, business interruption and cyber attacks have also emerged as key concerns for many organisations. Though cyber attacks have only featured in Aon’s top 10 risks since 2015, they have quickly grown to be perceived as one of the most pressing issues of the day. Indeed, for North American respondents, cyber attacks are now the number one risk.

The elevation of new risks has become a common theme in the recent years. The speed of technological change, aggressive regulatory actions, product recalls, an active cycle of devastating natural disasters and corporate scandals are disrupting supply chains and business operations.

As a result of these rapid and paradigm-shifting changes to the risk management landscape, risk managers are reporting their lowest level of risk readiness in 12 years, since many of the top risks are uninsurable.

Risk managers must evolve with the times if they are to protect their organisations. “The use of data and predictive analytics that can generate actionable insights, will help businesses protect their bottom lines while adapting to accelerated change and economic fluctuations,” said Mr Moloney.

Report: 2019 Global Risk Management Survey

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