Canadian companies focused on cost efficiency to fuel growth investment: CFERF survey

Companies optimistic on credit availability but still remain cautious

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(Toronto, 22 November 2013) Canadian companies may be more optimistic about access to credit, but they’re keeping a tight hold on costs ahead of investing for growth. In fact, 60% of companies expect cost reduction and process efficiency to be the most important areas of focus when it comes to business improvement over the next two years, according to a new Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation (CFERF) study, sponsored by EY.

“Companies are still weary. During the recession in 2008 and 2009, they experienced firsthand how quickly credit availability can be squeezed,” said Michael Conway, President & Chief Executive Officer of Financial Executives International Canada. “They remain watchful for signs that credit flow could lessen in the near term, and they’re being very careful about how and when to invest in their own growth.”

Despite positive indicators, the economic environment remains uncertain. Optimizing for Growth: Working Capital & Credit Availability finds that, while Canadian financial executives are optimistic about their economic prospects and access to capital for growth, 56% say they failed to meet revenue growth targets over the past year and 55% are focused solely on organic growth in the next 12 months.

“Even with today’s ultra-low cost interest rates, Canadian companies are relatively conservative when it comes to investing for growth,” said Tim MacDonald, Partner, EY Transaction Advisory Services. “They’re focusing more on cash generative projects, like cost reduction, technology upgrades, and working capital optimization, to support reinvestment in, primarily, organic growth.”

The study results correspond with EY’s most recent Canadian Capital Confidence Barometer, which found that efficiency and cost control, followed by risk management, continue to be the boardroom focus of many Canadian companies. It also showed that, although they have been focusing on their core business by optimizing their capital structures, there are signs that point to increased transaction activity.

 “Cash flow must be carefully managed, even in so-called ‘good’ economic periods,” Conway said. “Finance can play a critical role when it comes to driving the growth of the business, whether raising cash, championing initiatives like working capital improvement, or looking for inorganic growth opportunities.”

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About the survey
Optimizing for growth: working capital & credit availability comprises the results of an online survey of Canadian financial executives which took place between September 17, 2013 and October 11, 2013. A total of 121 respondents completed the survey. Further insights were gathered at executive roundtables in Toronto and Montreal which took place simultaneously by video conference, on October 9, 2013. Almost one-half (45%) of respondents were CFOs, and 18% held the title of VP Finance. Respondents were drawn from a wide range of industry groups and sectors. Of the respondents, 49% were from private companies and 37% from public.

About the Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation
CFERF is the non-profit research institute of FEI Canada. The foundation’s mandate is to advance the profession and practices of financial management through
research. CFERF undertakes objective research projects relevant to the needs of Canada’s senior financial executives in working toward the advancement of corporate efficiency in Canada. For more information, please visit feicanada.org.

About Financial Executives International Canada
FEI Canada is the all-industry professional membership association for senior financial executives. With 11 chapters across Canada and 1,700 members, it provides professional development, thought leadership and advocacy services to its members. The association membership, which consists of chief financial officers, audit committee directors and senior executives in the finance, controller, treasury and taxation functions, represents a significant number of Canada’s leading and most influential corporations. For more information, please visit feicanada.org.

About EY
EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

For more information, please visit ey.com/ca. Follow us on Twitter @EYCanada.

EY refers to the global organization and may refer to one or more of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.