Falling optimism, but European business leaders’ investment intentions remain even as economic impact of war bites
Brussels, 24 May 2022: A new report released today reveals the latest sentiments for the economic and business outlook among European business leaders and reflects the challenges facing some of Europe’s most significant companies.
The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™ for Europe polls corporate leaders and Members of the European Round Table for Industry (ERT) – the CEOs and Chairs of some of the best known European industrial and technology companies with operations worldwide. This 10th edition of the semi-annual survey gauged sentiment among the Members of ERT on a range of topics, including economic outlook, investment, energy transition & climate targets and the business and geopolitical implications of the war in Ukraine. The survey was conducted in mid-April.
The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™ for Europe by ERT dropped to 37 in the first half of 2022, down from 63 in the second half of 2021. The measure ranges from 0 to 100. A reading of less than 50 reflects more negative than positive responses.
Elevated transportation prices, higher input costs, supply chain bottlenecks and now war on the continent have left the majority of European CEOs feeling pessimistic about current economic conditions. Moreover, a further 61% said that the outlook will worsen in the next six months.
The rising cost of energy is a key driver of current downward revisions to Europe’s economic outlook and may have a longer lasting impact.
Among a number of other significant findings from the latest survey, ERT is highlighting the following three insights:
Investment and employment intentions remain positive
Despite the pessimistic overall outlook, CEOs remain positive about their investment intentions for the next 6 months, and many have plans to accelerate investments that will reduce their reliance on Russian energy. Overall, a third of CEOs expect capital investment in Europe to increase, and another 54 percent to remain the same. The story is similar for hiring intentions, with 25% of CEOs expressing optimism for the employment outlook in Europe, and 61 percent not expecting changes for the next six months.
High energy prices in the coming years do not curb green transition ambition
Forty percent of CEOs surveyed believe that energy prices will only return to pre-pandemic levels from 2024 onwards, while 38% predict that they will never return to pre-pandemic levels.
The expectation of persistent high energy prices in the coming years should increase policy-makers’ awareness of the negative consequences on industrial competitiveness.
It is striking that two thirds of CEOs and Chairs expect that the pressure on energy costs will not slow down the EU’s efforts to reach its 55% emissions reduction target by 2030.
Furthermore, 69% of CEOs said they will be stepping up recycling efforts to help solve shortages of materials, with a further 11% responding that they have already implemented these actions.
The global picture will change
Respondents predict that the global business environment will look different in five years, with 80% expecting an accelerating division of the world into competing economic blocs. A majority of CEOs (66%) expect that Russia’s war in Ukraine will accelerate the EU’s ‘Strategic Autonomy’ agenda. 55% of CEOs expect that the status quo of EU Single Market integration will remain, while a further 39% are confident that integration will accelerate.
Sara Murray, Managing Director, International, The Conference Board, added that “The Measure of CEO Confidence survey was also conducted in China and it is interesting to note that there is consensus between executives in China and in Europe about rising costs being passed on to consumers. Sixty percent of CEOs in China told us this is either underway or they have already done it.”
About the survey
The Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence™ for Europe by ERT polls CEOs and chairs of leading European industrial and technology companies members of the European Round Table for Industry (ERT). With a 98 percent response rate, this 10th edition of the semi-annual survey gauged sentiment among the Members of ERT on a range of topics, including economic outlook, inflation, and the impact of the war in Ukraine. CEOs and Chairs have been surveyed by The Conference Board in the United States on a quarterly basis since 1976. The survey is conducted twice a year in Europe. To download the full survey results, click here. The next survey will be conducted in Q4.
Note to Editors:
A full list of the membership of ERT is accessible here.
On 24 February we woke up to a changed world. Russia’s war in Ukraine is a tragedy for the country and for its people. On a geopolitical level, it has shown us where Europe is strong and where it is vulnerable. This situation has underlined to us all the urgent need to accelerate the green transition. With that in mind, it is encouraging that in spite of the worsening outlook for the European economy due to this crisis the survey shows that most of the Members of ERT are confident that Europe can still meet its 2030 emissions reduction targets and a majority expect continued investment in labour and capital in Europe. In order to do this, the EU needs to focus on finally completing the Single Market. Only a competitive EU can rise to these challenges!