19 May 2010 07:30

SEB Financial Officers' Index: Increasing optimism despite sovereign unrest

Optimism continues to increase among Swedish financial officers. Swedish companies have been largely unaffected by recent sovereign unrest and financial market turbulence. In fact, according to Swedish CFOs, the business climate has improved significantly since our survey in February. Concerns regarding falling demand are decreasing and companies believe Asia will drive growth. More companies expect to increase staffing and profit expectations for 2010 remain high.

SEB's Financial Officers' survey, addressed to around 70 of Sweden's largest companies, shows that respondents are becoming increasingly positive towards the current situation. SEB's Financial Officers' Index for May published today stands at 62, up from 60 in February.

The survey now suggests respondents are more positive towards the current business climate.

"A majority of financial officers expect volume increases to support higher profitability this year while cost cutting is declining in importance. Indeed, some 61 per cent of respondents forecast improved profitability in 2010 compared to 2009", says Ebba Lindahl, head of Credit Research at SEB and co-author of the report with Disa Hammar.

Improved employment outlook

"Following extensive lay-offs last year many companies now expect to employ staff. One third of respondents believe they will recruit more personnel in Sweden, a significant improvement since February. Prospects for employment abroad are even more positive with 40 per cent of respondents expecting to enlarge payrolls", says Hammar.

Higher raw material costs

"Financial officers are increasingly concerned about the rising cost of raw materials. While none of the financial officers expressed concerns regarding this in February, 14 per cent now regard higher prices as potentially problematic. At the same time, companies are less worried about falling demand, even if it still remains the greatest perceived threat, with 58 per cent of respondents declaring it to be their biggest concern compared to 89 per cent a year ago", says Lindahl.

This is the seventeenth publication of SEB's Financial Officers' Index, a unique quarterly survey whose purpose is to reflect changes of sentiment in the financial environment and facilitate the understanding of economic and financial trends. The survey comprises a total of 15 questions covering areas such as business climate, strategic investments, employment, views on currencies and interest rates, financial strength, and lending attitudes amongst financial institutions. The full report (in Swedish) is available at www.sebgroup.com\press.

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For further information, please contact:
Ebba Lindahl, Trading Strategy, SEB, tel. +46 8-506 232 08
Elisabeth Lennhede, Press Officer, tel. +46 70 763 99 16 elisabeth.lennhede@seb.se