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Business optimism riding high in Europe, survey finds

April 27, 2021, 1:31 PM UTC

Business optimism across Europe is increasing, with the majority of Chief Financial Officers in the region predicting that profits are set to rise.

In a survey conducted by Deloitte, the number of CFOs across Europe who are optimistic about their company’s financial prospects vastly outnumbered those who aren’t. Across all countries and sectors polled , 77% of CFOs said they expect revenues at company level to increase by 25% over the next 12 months . Only 11% of CFOs expect revenues to fall.

“A new wave of optimism and a renewed willingness to invest is prevalent across Europe, with many companies turning the page on COVID and focusing on the post-pandemic reality,” Deloitte said.

Around 66% of CFOs reported that they are “preparing for and shaping the post pandemic future”, putting companies in the “thrive” phase, while 14% still reported they are in survival mode.

The level optimism ranged across industries, with 80% of CFOs in life sciences and healthcare saying their organization is in the “thrive” phase. In contrast, only 38% in the tourism and travel industry said the same. Nevertheless, optimism in the tourism industry had still picked up from three months previously.

The report found that CFOs in retail are also bullish, with 66% reporting they are in thrive phase after having transitioned their businesses online, pushing to find new ways to serve customers.

Some differences

Examining the differences across countries, the study found that optimism is more pronounced in countries outside the euro area, led by the upbeat mood of the U.K. where 77% of respondents felt more optimistic than 3 months ago—the highest level across all countries surveyed.

Optimism also ranged across company size, with smaller companies expecting to recover slowly.

There was also tangible proof that tides are turning, with more than 40% of CFOs reporting that they were already at or above pre-crisis levels—almost twice as many as last autumn. But this metric ranged vastly across countries. Two-thirds of CFOs in Denmark and Russia found that their revenues were at pre-crisis levels, while less than 30% felt the same in Spain, Greece and the U.K.

Despite the overall optimism, CFOs are still expecting a long road to recovery. A quarter of respondents expect to return to pre-crisis activity by the end of 2021, and another quarter expected it in 2022 while 10% expect recovery even later than that.

CFOs also remain concerned about a possible weakening in demand and the overall state of the economy.

But this has not stopped investment. Half the CFOs polled said they were planning to increase capital expenditures over the next 12 months and only 14% are planning a reduction.

But on the ground, things are still slow moving. According to Google’s mobility data, visits to retail and recreational locations is still down 40% and movements in transport hubs were 35% below pre-COVID levels across the globe.

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