British bosses are bold about Brexit - but worried about global growth

Steven Scott
The report was launched ahead of this week's annual Davos (Source: Getty)

Bosses at Britain’s largest firms are more optimistic about prospects for business expansion than their international counterparts despite sharing greater levels of concern about global growth and the fallout from Brexit, according to a new survey by PwC.

The annual report, released tonight at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, is based on responses by more than 1,300 global chief executives including 126 UK leaders.

Almost nine out of ten UK chief executives said they were confident about their company’s growth prospects in 2017 compared to 85 per cent globally and 77 per cent in Germany. Just over four in 10 British bosses described themselves as “very confident”.

The report reveals a higher level of pessimism among UK bosses about prospects for the global economy and ongoing nervousness about the impact of Brexit on the pound.

Exchange rate volatility was ranked as the second highest concern among British chief executives but fears were greater among UK chiefs (82 per cent) than their global counterparts (70 per cent).

Read more: The IMF has increased its growth forecast for the UK this year

Worries about the future of the Eurozone were mentioned by 78 per cent of UK bosses compared to just 56 per cent across the globe.

Uncertain economic growth was ranked as the top fear for bosses, with the preoccupation shared by 84 per cent of UK bosses and 82 in other countries.

British bosses appear more anxious about global conditions, with almost a third of UK bosses expecting the world economy to decline in 2017 compared to 14 per cent in the US and 10 per cent in Germany.

Despite these fears, increased numbers of UK company leaders reported plans to expand their businesses and pursue mergers and acquisitions this year.

PwC UK chairman Kevin Ellis said the results suggested UK chief executives were “resilient and realistic about the challenges ahead” but added it was encouraging to see most maintain a positive outlook.

“Despite an eventful 2016, it’s encouraging to see growth firmly on the agenda of UK plc,” Mr Ellis said.

“We may face a period of uncertainty, but the economic fundamentals remain positive and businesses should keep calm and carry on doing what they do best – capitalising on the UK’s strengths and attractiveness to the rest of the world, and seeking out new opportunities.”

Almost two thirds of large British companies are planning to go on a hiring spree in 2017, compared just over half of others across the globe, the survey shows. One in ten British firms expect to reduce their workforce headcount but this has been halved from 2016.

Fifty five per cent of UK firms are planning mergers and acquisitions compared to 41 per cent globally.

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