24 Aug 2011 07:30

SEB's Financial Officers Survey - Companies impacted by macro concerns

Over the summer, Swedish and Norwegian financial officers have become much more concerned about the business environment. All index components show a deterioration in confidence, particularly regarding prospective business conditions. Respondents are especially worried about demand following weak economic growth signals from the US and continuing debt problems in Europe. While financial positions generally remain strong, officers have become more cautious, favouring debt reduction over strategic investments in the event of a liquidity surplus. Furthermore, the present decline in index values has been significantly affected by concerns regarding the development of credit spreads and equity markets, reflecting economic unrest in several European countries and uncertainties involving their respective banking systems, as well as worries over future economic growth.

SEB's Financial Officers' survey, addressed to over 100 of the largest companies in Sweden and Norway, shows that respondents have become much more pessmistic this summer. SEB's Financial Officers Index for Sweden published today stands at 55, down from 62 in May. SEB's Financial Officers Index for Norway, published bi-annually, stands at 55, down from 64 in February.

Business climate deteriorating rapidly

"Concerns regarding demand have increased significantly among financial officers in both Sweden and Norway. Far fewer companies now plan to employ more staff domestically during the next six months while profit expectations for 2011 are declining despite generally solid Q2 earnings reports. As might have been expected, Asia is regarded as most likely to generate growth going forward. In Norway, the lack of a suitably qualified workforce remains a more urgent concern for respondents compared to their Swedish counterparts," says Ebba Lindahl, Head of Credit Research at SEB and credit analyst Henrik Blymke.

Less scope for price increases

"Another sign of decreasing business confidence in Sweden is the fact that the share of officers expecting to raise prices in the next six months declined to 47 percent from 65 percent in May and 71 percent in February. Conversely, Norwegian financial officers believe their companies are better placed to raise prices now than in February, at 57 percent compared with 40 percent six months ago," says Blymke.

Deterioration in previously strong financial positions

"Although financial positions remain strong according to both Swedish and Norwegian officers, they appear to be weakening. Only 59 percent of Swedish officers now rank their position as either strong or very strong, compared to 86 percent in May. The corresponding share in Norway is 69 percent, compared to 84 percent in February. At the same time, Swedish and Norwegian officers note that banks have become less willing to lend."

This is the twenty-second publication of SEB's Financial Officers' Index Sweden and the fifth publication of SEB's Financial Officers' Index Norway. The purpose of this unique survey 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 and Norwegian) is available at www.sebgroup.com\press.

For further information, please contact
Ebba Lindahl, Head of Credit Research
Phone +46 8 506 232 08
E-mail ebba.lindahl@seb.se

For further information, please contact
Henrik Blymke, Credit Research
Phone +47 22 82 72 85
E-mail henrik.blymke@seb.no

Press contact
Elisabeth Lennhede
Phone +46 70 763 99 16
E-mail elisabeth.lennhede@seb.se