-Deloitte: Risk appetite in the Middle East curbed
-Deloitte: Optimism in UAE drops to a net 46% from net 61% previously
24 August, 2015 – The continuation of low energy prices is impacting both optimism and risk appetite in the Middle East, according to Deloitte’s latest report “Global CFO Signals: CFO Sentiment Q2 2015 – Staying focused; remaining vigilant”. With oil at US$53 a barrel at the time of the survey, CFO optimism fell to one of its lowest levels in recent years, with only a net 26% across the Middle East reporting positive prospects for their company. That is down from 47% in the previous survey, which was conducted just before the fall in oil prices.
According to Deloitte’s report, which includes results of the second-quarter 2015 CFO surveys from Deloitte CFO Programs across the Americas, Middle East, Europe and Asia-Pacific, risk appetite in the Middle East curbed, with only 33% of CFOs believing it is a good time to take greater risk onto the balance sheet. For now, the favored strategies are cost reduction and improving internal economics. However, CFOs are optimistic about at least one thing: they expect oil prices to be higher in a year.
“In response to challenging market conditions and decreased risk appetite, Middle East CFOs appear to have concentrated their efforts toward performing as financial stewards and operators of their organizations rather than as strategists or catalysts,” explains James Babb, partner and CFO Program leader at Deloitte Middle East. “The pivot is evident as high-priority business strategies over the next 12 months aim to protect and preserve the organization’s financial position via cost reduction (net 86%), organic growth (net 73%) and increased cash flow (net 66%).”
Highlights from the Middle East CFO Survey:
• The weakened sense of optimism is evident within several financial forecasts. Predictions of private equity activity as well as M&A levels over the next 12 months have both decreased from the previous survey conducted for the second half of 2014.
• Despite market conditions, new credit is considered to be easily available and at one of its lowest cost levels.
• High-priority business strategies for the next year revolve around Middle East CFOs’ operator and steward roles.
• Net 66% of Middle East CFOs predict that energy prices will be higher in a year.
• Gulf nations did not remain unscathed from market conditions; optimism in the United Arab Emirates dropped to a net 46% from net 61% in previous survey.
• Bank borrowing is perceived to be the most attractive source of external funding, with a net 65% of Middle East CFOs preferring bank loans over debt raised.
“Maintaining a focus on cost reduction and improving internal economics appears to be a prevailing position. As optimism and risk appetite seem to be directly correlated with energy prices, maintaining a holding position to weather the storm appears to be a popular strategy,” said Babb. “Fortunately, many CFOs believe energy prices will be higher in a year.”