PricewaterhouseCooper's annual survey of CEOs makes for some sobering reading.

By Daniel Herborn


Posted on January 22, 2019

“We found that CEO survey responses over the past decade reveal a strong correlation between chief executives’ expectations for their own organisations’ revenue growth and actual global GDP growth the following year,” the report, prepared by audit and accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), says.

In light of this, the CEOs’ collective lack of revenue confidence is seriously bad news for the global economy in 2019.

CEOs across the globe reporting lower levels of confidence

The number of CEO respondents who thought the global economy will slow over the next 12 months was at 30%, up dramatically from 5% in last year’s survey.

This pessimism also extended to company earnings; only 35% of CEOs in the survey reported they were “very confident” about their own company’s growth prospects for the year ahead, down from 42% for the same question last year.

The pattern of plummeting CEO confidence was most prominent in the Middle East, but confidence was down in every global region.

Never before has the survey reported such a dramatic loss of confidence. “It’s quite a reversal from last year and the gloomier mood cuts across just about everywhere in the world,” said Bob Moritz, PwC’s Global Chairman.

CEOS say less regulation, end to trade tensions would help ease of business

The main sources of unrest among CEOs are a perception of over-regulation and ongoing concern over political uncertainty. 35% of CEOs in the survey reported that they saw the two issues as “potential economic, policy, social, environmental, and business threats to (their) organisation’s growth prospects”. 31% were concerned about trade conflicts specifically.

Uncertainty about the shape of Brexit and concern over the economic impact of the US shutdown were likely front of mind for CEOs uneasy about the current political climate.

Later on 22 January, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released economic forecasts that echoed the gloom of the CEO survey. The IMF expects global economic growth to slow to 3.5% in the coming year, down from 3.7% last year and 0.2% lower than the figures it released just three months ago.

The IMF has downgraded its economic growth forecasts largely due to slowing growth across Europe and in a number of emerging markets. It warned that a failure to quickly resolve trade tensions could further hamper the global economy.

Many of the world’s most prominent politicians, business leaders, academics and NGO officials are about to gather in Davos, Switzerland from 22-25 January for the World Economic Forum’s flagship event.