Gloomy start at Davos for chief execs

CONFIDENCE among chief executives has taken a battering in the past year, with just forty per cent of company bosses in Europe strongly believing that they will bring in any revenue growth this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual CEO survey published in Davos yesterday.

The results are worst for Western Europe, where a mere quarter of the 1,258 CEOs asked described themselves as “very confident” about boosting sales at all.

And chief executives’ views are even gloomier about the global economy than their own companies. Just 15 per cent of those asked said the economy will improve over the next year, whereas 45 per cent think it will continue to spiral downwards.

“The optimism that had been building cautiously since 2008 has begun to recede,” said PwC’s global chairman Dennis Nally. “Even the fast-growing economies of Asia and Latin America are not immune.”

Stoking worries that the global economy’s new growth engine could also stall, there was a sharp drop in Chinese and Indian optimism. The number of Chinese CEOs very confident of revenue growth decreased to 51 per cent from 72 per cent last year – the worst decline in Asia Pacific.

Sentiment among Indian CEOs has declined even more dramatically to its lowest level for six years. While the vast majority (88 per cent) were very confident they would see growth in their top line in 2010, only 55 per cent said the same in 2011.

Shaky growth prospects topped the list of worries – with 80 per cent citing it as a major concern – followed by the fear of how governments might respond to fiscal crisis, which two thirds said was keeping them awake.

The possibility of ongoing government assaults on business is also a source of concern. Regulation (56 per cent) and tax rises (55 per cent) were listed by more than half as threats to the health of their company.

The data from the annual survey was unveiled in at the World Economic Forum at PwC’s annual “thought cafe” cocktail party.