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13 January 2014

Deloitte CFO Survey: Expansion, investment, hiring key in 2014

  1. Perceptions of economic uncertainty at a three-and-a-half year low and risk appetite among big corporates at a six-year high
  2. Bank borrowing returns as most attractive source of finance - first time since financial crisis
  3. 49% say policies of Mark Carney have contributed to rising confidence
  4. However, 59% of CFOs expect interest rate rise by mid-2015; 23% expect rates to rise in 2014

With low levels of uncertainty, improved access to finance and greater confidence in the Bank of England's policies, Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are gearing up for expansion, investment and hiring in 2014, according to the latest Deloitte CFO Survey.

The fourth quarter 2013 CFO Survey gauged the views of 122 CFOs, including 32 FTSE 100 and 41 FTSE 250 companies. The survey shows that business confidence has improved for the sixth consecutive quarter and that:

57% of CFOs say that now is a good time to take risk onto their balance sheets - the highest level since the survey started six years ago;
60% of CFOs said that their business faces an above normal level of economic and financial uncertainty - the lowest level in more than three years;
CFOs attach a 16% probability to the UK falling back into recession in the next two years, down from 40% a year ago;
70% of CFOs expect UK corporates to increase hiring in 2014, 65% expect them to increase capital spending and 46% expect an increase in discretionary spending;
91% of CFOs expect to see revenues increase in 2014;
10.88% expect M&A activity to increase in the next 12 months;

For the first time since the financial crisis, CFOs say that bank borrowing offers the most attractive source of funding for their businesses. 80% say bank credit is an attractive source of finance;

CFOs anticipate that bank borrowing and equity issuance by corporates will increase markedly over the next year.

The policies of the new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, have contributed to rising business optimism. 49% of CFOs say that under Mr Carney the Bank's policies have made them more positive about the UK's economic outlook while just 3% say they have made them less optimistic (49% say the Bank's policies have had no effect). Most CFOs think the Bank will be unable to meet its 2.0% inflation target: 53% believe that inflation will be above 2.5% in two years' time. Meanwhile, 59% expect interest rates to rise by the middle of 2015 and 23% expect interest rates to rise in the course of 2014.

Ian Stewart, Chief Economist at Deloitte, said:

"CFOs enter 2014 in buoyant mood with a focus on expansion, investment and hiring in the year ahead. This bodes well for the broad-based recovery policymakers hope to see in 2014.

"Uncertainty and credit shortages, two major blocks on business activity, have eased substantially and CFOs believe that the level of financial and economic risk facing their businesses has reduced significantly in the last year. Whether through introducing new products and services, M&A or moving into new markets, expansion is firmly back on the agenda.

"Large corporates have good access to capital and CFOs are more positive about financing their business with equity and bonds than at any time in the last six years. But in a sign that banks are lending once again CFOs rate bank lending as the most attractive form of finance for their business for the first time since 2008. A record 80% of CFOs now say bank credit offers an attractive source of finance."

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