Belfast Telegraph

Mood 'brightens' among finance chiefs at Europe's biggest firms

Optimism among business finance chiefs remains high despite some believing that another country could leave the European Union, according to a report.

Deloitte's first-quarter survey of chief financial officers (CFOs) at a raft of Europe's biggest companies showed 38% were more optimistic about the prospects for their companies, up from 26% in the third quarter of last year.

It found that 13% were less positive, with Turkey emerging as the only country where optimism had fallen over the past six months.

But the survey of 1,580 CFOs from 19 European countries revealed they believed there was a reasonable chance, 33%, that another EU member could they leave the bloc within the next five years.

It added that 47% of finance bosses outside the UK said they would like to see more integration among EU states, or a multi-speed approach, while 5% said no change was the best option.

The lion's share of support for greater unification came from CFOs in Greece at 80%, with 69% in Germany preferring the multi-speed option where different parts of the European Union integrated at varying levels and speeds.

The European survey comes after a report in April showed optimism among UK CFOs had hit an 18-month high, with 31% feeling positive about their firm's prospects as June's "Brexit shock" eased.

Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte UK, said: "The European recovery has moved up a gear.

"The mood among businesses across the continent has brightened and this has fed through to a growing willingness to invest and hire.

"The shift by the big allocators of capital in Europe towards growth strategies tells us that this recovery has staying power."

Focussing on revenues, 69% of European CFOs were feeling more positive about growth over the next year, rising from 65% six months ago.

But despite outlook for hiring and capital spending improving, concerns over business uncertainty were high.

David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive at Deloitte UK, said: "European businesses have faced a wide range of uncertainties in the past year, including Britain's Brexit vote and then the Dutch and French elections.

"But we are finding that businesses are learning to live with political risk.

"Despite the unknowns, Europe's CFOs are upbeat and, increasingly, running their businesses for growth."