British chief executives are increasingly confident about the prospects for global economic growth this year – but a growing number also expect to slash jobs at home in the face of Brexit turmoil.
According to PwC’s CEO survey, which quizzed nearly 200 British bosses, 36% believe global economic growth will improve in 2018, compared to 17% last year.
This is the most confident bosses have been since 2015, and represents “resilience in uncertain times”, the accountancy giant said.
Almost nine in 10 UK bosses are optimistic about their organisation’s growth prospects in 2018, in line with their global counterparts, with almost all expecting revenue to increase.
This, the study said, could reflect comfort in the prospect of a two-year Brexit transition period, despite wider concerns over the outcome of trade negotiations.
However, the number of UK business leaders who describe themselves as “very confident” has dipped from 41% last year to 34%.
In addition, the number expecting to increase headcount has fallen to 54% from 63% last year, and 15% expect to cut jobs, up from to 10% in 2017.
The collapse in sterling following the Brexit vote has ramped up costs for British businesses, and several cost-cutting programmes have been launched by big corporates.
To compound matters, the lack of clarity from Theresa May’s Government over future trading relations with the EU has meant firms cannot plan for the future with any certainty.
The net result has been a sharp slowdown in Britain’s economic growth, while eurozone and global growth races ahead.
“While optimism remains high, the PwC CEO Survey findings suggest businesses are braced for more challenging times ahead,” PwC said.
Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC, added: “Robust confidence levels among UK CEOs points to resilience in uncertain times, but this is tempered by a big dose of realism about the challenges ahead.
“Brexit uncertainty, regulation, availability of skills and cyber are key concerns, but business leaders remain confident they can navigate through them.”
The total survey saw 1,293 global bosses across 85 countries probed for their views on economic growth ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Despite Brexit uncertainty, global chiefs identified the UK as the fourth most important country for their firm’s growth – behind the US, China and Germany.
Both UK and global bosses share the same top two concerns about the biggest economic or policy threats to their company’s growth – namely, geopolitical uncertainty and over-regulation.
Cyber threats, the availability of skilled workers and changing consumer behaviour remain top business concerns for UK chiefs, while disruptive technologies are also on their radars.
Mr Ellis said: “Disruption from emerging technology is now a fact of life and business leaders are considering how the fourth industrial revolution will impact their operations and employees.
“At the same time, they also have the day-to-day demands of managing costs and growing their businesses. How UK businesses respond to these short and long term opportunities and challenges will determine their own and the UK’s future success.”