Coronavirus

Three quarters of CEOs predict a return to growth in 2021

The survey findings show that the US has extended its lead as the number one market that CEOs are looking to for growth over the next 12 months

One year after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, CEOs are voicing “record levels of optimism” in the global economic recovery, with 76% of global business leaders predicting that economic growth will improve in 2021, according to the latest findings from PwC.

The figures come from PwC’s 24th Annual Global CEO Survey, which this year polled 5,050 CEOs in 100 countries and territories over January and February 2021.

The percentage of CEOs expressing confidence in growth is up from 22% in 2020 and 42% in 2019, representing the highest level of optimism since the survey started asking this question in 2012.

It found that optimism among CEOs over global economic growth is “particularly strong” in North America and Western Europe, with 86% and 76% of CEOs, respectively, from these regions predicting improved global growth in the year ahead.

PwC added that CEOs are more optimistic about the outlook for their businesses. Some 36% of those polled said they are “very confident” about their organisation’s prospects for revenue growth over the next 12 months, up from 27% of CEOs in 2020.

While global confidence is up, there is wide variation across industries, reflecting the varying degrees to which consumer behaviour has been impacted by the pandemic.

The survey said that CEOs in the technology and telecommunications sectors show the highest levels of confidence at 45% and 43%, respectively. Meanwhile, CEOs in the transportation and logistics (29%) and hospitality and leisure (27%) sectors are among the least confident about their ability to grow revenues over the next 12 months.

Findings also show that the US has extended its lead as the number one market that CEOs are looking to for growth over the next 12 months at 35%, 7 percentage points ahead of China at 28%. In 2020, the US was only one percentage point ahead of China.

Bob Moritz, chairman of the PwC Network, said: “After a year of human tragedy and extensive economic hardship, it is encouraging to see that the people responsible for making investment decisions and hiring staff are feeling cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. CEOs have faith that growth will return, boosted by the rapid development of vaccines and their rollout in many parts of the world.

“During the tumultuous past year, CEOs have had to rethink and reconfigure what they do and how they do it, while dealing with stretched balance sheets and supporting employees who have been forced to navigate these extraordinary circumstances.”

He added: “CEOs now face two fundamental challenges: first, how to build trust with a broad range of stakeholders, whose expectations of business are higher than ever before; and second, how to adapt their businesses and deliver sustained outcomes in a rapidly changing external environment. Organisations that get this right will be best placed to come out of the pandemic as strong, resilient and productive businesses, able to withstand future shocks.”

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