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Economic outlook & predictions from Central Europe’s CFOs

Once again, in this 16th edition we have asked a wide range of questions designed to reveal an overview of our respondents’ plans and concerns for the future, as well as the key threats, opportunities and priorities they identify, their risk appetite and the factors they regard as essential for success.

Economic Outlook


  • The CFO Confidence Index, which reflects CFOs’ levels of optimism, has increased in positivity to 17% from a low point of -15% in 2023. This assessment was most influenced by the Business Environment Confidence Index, which, in stark contrast to previous years, was exceptionally high.
  • CFOs are slightly more optimistic about GDP growth than they were a year ago. The average anticipated GDP growth in Central Europe for 2024 is 1.1%, compared to 0.33% in 2023 and 2.3% in 2022. About 60% of the CFOs, up from 50% in 2023, estimate that GDP will grow by 0.5%.
  • This year the difference between pessimistic responses (those expecting unemployment to rise) and optimistic responses (those expecting it to fall) was just 22 points, down from 61 points in 2023. Nearly half (46%) of CFOs expect the unemployment rate to remain unchanged.
  • For years, CFOs have been forecasting an increase in CPI (the Consumer Price Index). This year, 57% of those surveyed expect further growth (compared with 70% in 2023 and 91% in 2022). These results are clearly in line with macro-economic trends, as the rate of inflation has fallen in most countries. CFOs have also taken a cautious approach to emerging trends, and have considered the continuing drivers of increasing prices in each country. As a result, only a third of respondents believe that CPI may fall.

Business Environment Outlook


  •  CFOs have positive expectations regarding the business environment in Central Europe. The Business Environment Index fell from -40% in 2022, to -46% in 2023 before rising strongly to a value of 31% in 2024. Not only is it now in positive territory: it has increased by an extraordinary 77 points.
  •  The finance leaders we surveyed expect the costs of doing businesses to rise in many categories. In particular, almost all repondents (94%) expect labour costs to increase. Only regulated factors, such as VAT (chosen by 68% of respondents) and corporate tax (50%), are not widely expected to change.
  • 45% of respondents expect M&A levels to increase, down from 48% in 2023. The percentage of ‘no change’ responses has increased (from 32% to 44%), and only 12% of respondents are expecting M&A levels to fall in 2024. These results may be a sign of stability in this area.
  • CFOs continue to see uncertainty as the new normal and do not believe this is the right time to take any unnecessary risks: results in previous years have been similar. While they anticipate a slightly lower level of uncertainty than in 2023, more than 50% of respondents still believe there will be a high level of uncertainty in the months ahead.
  • As in 2023, the most significant perceived risks for 2024 include geopolitical risks and a shortage of skilled professionals. Far more evident in 2024 is the fear of an increase in compulsory business regulation, and a shortage of capital (with twice as many respondents identifying this as a significant risk than in 2023). Supply chain disruptions are critically important for nearly 30% of exporters, but only 6% feel the same about climate change.
  •  Internal financing and equity are the most attractive funding sources according to CFOs in 2024, while corporate debt and bank borrowing are both perceived negatively.

Company growth outlook


  •  The company perspective, similarly to the economic and business outlooks, reveals a positive trend. The Company Perspective Confidence Index has risen to 18%, up from just 7% in 2023. The market is more optimistic than it was a year ago (36% vs 25%), but caution and uncertainty are still key to business sentiment. We have not yet reached the levels of optimism seen in earlier editions, such as in 2022 or 2021.
  • Revenues will continue to grow according to 61% of those surveyed, slightly up from 58% in 2023 but down from 68% in 2022. CFOs from the Consumer Business and Life Sciences sectors are the most optimistic about revenue growth in their industries. The most pessimistic are from the Energy, Utilities, Mining sector.
  •  According to 35% of CFOs in the survey, operating margins will increase (compared with 25% in 2023). Only 28% of those surveyed expect them to decrease (against 42% in 2023).
  •  39% of respondents believe that CAPEX will increase, compared to 36% in 2023 and 46% in 2022. 21% of CFOs tell us their companies are expecting a decrease. About half of CFOs expect the most significant increases in capital expenditure to be in the Energy, Utilities, Mining and Financial Services sectors.
  • 32% of CFOs predict that the level of employment in their companies will increase in the next 12 months, compared to 30% in 2023 and 40% in 2022. Employee numbers will fall according to 22%, compared with 20% in 2023 and 13% in 2022.
  • Similarly to recent years, half of CFOs are not expecting any change in their ability to service debt. 33% of respondents expect it will increase, compared to 30% in 2023. While reducing costs, organic growth and growth in existing markets are top priorities for CEOs, only 3% of respondents gave priority to ESG reporting issues.
  • For the first time since 2020, plans to reduce debt levels are more common than plans to increase them. Construction in particular stands out for its intention to reduce debt, while Life Sciences is the only sector in which plans to increase debt are in the acendancy.

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