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Executive Summary

We are excited to present the spring 2017 results of the Deloitte/SEB CFO Survey and hope that you find our accompanying analysis both stimulating and valuable.

The spring 2017 CFO Survey reveals a clearly more positive sentiment among large Swedish companies. The overall CFO index shows, after a decline in the two latest surveys, a good jump up to 58.2 from 54.1 in fall 2016. This is the highest level since spring 2011. Except for slightly reduced lending willingness, the other subindexes − business climate, financial position and counterparty risk − improved significantly. In the last survey it was clear that CFOs took into account the still uncertain macro situation after several major events during the course of 2016. During the past six months, although the macro situation is still perceived as volatile, there is an increased consensus that global growth will pick up and that interest rates will gradually increase. We believe this and their own companies’ generally strong 2016 financial results have boosted CFOs confidence for the year to come.

Sector divergence has been a theme we have discussed in the latest reports; the main message is that domestically oriented and real estate companies have been the most positive. In the spring 2017 survey we see sector divergence generally narrowing – supporting our view of a more broad-based recovery. Furthermore, the greatest increase in optimism is within the Manufacturing sector which previously lagged behind more optimistic domestically targeting companies. With world market demand rebounding, global players such as large Swedish manufacturers stand to gain further.

CFOs see a lower level of external uncertainty and their overall level of concern for the coming 12 months has also fallen. Their concern about macro and political factors fell the most, showing great resilience to rising political risks. The concern for cost of raw materials is the only concern that has increased compared with six months ago. This is hardly surprising, with purchasing price indices having recently risen sharply to elevated levels which may serve as another sign that the global economy is picking up in speed.

Just as CFOs predicted in the fall 2016 survey, M&A activity has remained at very high levels, supported by the number and volume of transactions. Well in line with other recent surveys, our CFOs are favoring M&A as a top priority for the coming 12 months – the level of activity is expected to increase further, although just slightly above the current already high level. Interest in investing abroad has increased significantly, further supporting the CFOs’ beliefs in global recovery. Also breathing optimism, the companies shows a greatly improving willingness to hire in Sweden with one third of CFOs expecting to increase the number of employees the coming 6 months, which is the most positive hiring plans seen since 2011.

In the current survey, we asked the CFOs to comment on their experience from and preparations for cyber threats. Notably, the vast majority of CFOs have experienced cyber-attacks of some kind. More importantly – only 14 percent indicated they are well prepared to identify and respond to such threats. It is clear that in many cases, the companies’ defense strategies have not kept up with the threats, which means it is time to take control. Finally we also asked CFOs about the impact of a stronger Swedish krona (SEK) and how it would be managed: One fifth of the companies would be negatively affected and somewhat more than half of those would manage this by raising SEK-denominated prices rather than accepting lower margins.

To sum up, Swedish CFOs are increasingly positive about the near future, and the never-ending macro worries do not seem to supersede the forces driving the more broad-based recovery in the Swedish as well as global markets.

Please send us your feedback together with any suggestions for improvement to help us ensure that the Deloitte/ SEB CFO survey remains an essential resource for your work.

 

Henrik Nilsson
Partner
Audit, Deloitte
henilsson@deloitte.se

Karl Steiner
Senior Strategist
Research & Strategy, SEB
karl.steiner@seb.se

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Hot Topics

Interest rate and currency sensitivity Companies are on average only slightly sensitive to gradually higher interest rates and should thus not be as large a concern for the Riksbank as private lenders once it begins to normalize monetary policy. A stronger SEK would have no significant impact on a majority of the companies. However, for those who are impacted there is a tilt towards the negative side.
Cyber threats

The vast majority of CFOs have experienced cyber-attacks of some kind during the past 12 months. However the level of cyber security awareness is not yet in line with the level of the threats at hand.

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Business conditions and outlook

BUSINESS OUTLOOK AND FINANCIAL POSITION CFOs’ view of business conditions largely improved from an already strong position. CFOs also had a generally positive view of improvements in the financial position of their own company. These changes were driven by a more positive manufacturing sector, which indicates a more broad-based recovery: spreading from the real estate and services sector into the industrial sector.
PROSPECTS AND CONCERNS The overall level of concern for the coming 12 months has fallen, and M&A activity together with cost reduction continue to be top priorities. The survey shows a substantial increase in willingness to hire, with one third of CFOs expecting their company’s number of employees in Sweden to increase.
FINANCING AND RISK There is a lower level of external uncertainty, and expectations on the probability of counterparties defaulting are at multi-year lows. The attitude towards lending to major Swedish companies remains favourable, but CFOs are still hesitant to take on greater risk in their balance sheet. Bank borrowing is still the most attractive source of financing, and corporate debt recovered sharply in attractiveness.
STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITIES Previous surveys have leaned overall towards more prudent expectations, but the survey has now shifted towards an increasingly positive outlook. Of all respondents, 94% expect M&A activity to remain at its current high levels or possibly increase further.
Fall 2016 Spring 2017
Business conditions 40   60
Financial position 40   60
Reducing cost 60   48
Unchanged number of employees 56   50
Fall 2016 Spring 2017
Lending attitude 73   76
M&A activity 40   43
Probability of counterparties default 75   60
Investments in Sweden 32   26
Hover the text above for more information on each area.
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Download the report

CFO Survey We are proud to present our CFO Survey website in Sweden, an initiative of the Deloitte CFO Program. This website provides a snapshot of the key findings from the Survey. We hope that it will provide insights into changes over time in CFOs' attitudes to risk, financing and M&A, and reports trends and turning points for you and your business. Download the pfd to read the full survey.

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About the Survey

The Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) who responded represent a selection of the 200 largest companies in Sweden across various industries. The survey was carried out as a web-based questionnaire in February 2017. Given the broad range of industries and organizations that responded, the trends observed and conclusions reached are considered representative of the wider Swedish CFO community. 

 

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