Press release
06 Sep 2023 

Asia-Pacific CEOs eye AI and dealmaking, as fears of a severe recession fade

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  • 70% of respondents see AI as a force for driving business efficiency – but also fear unintended consequences
  • 89% are integrating AI into capital allocation, just over half plan significant AI investments in the next year
  • M&A to rebound into 2024 - 72% of CEOs using AI to strengthen deal strategies 

Asia-Pacific CEOs are embracing opportunities created by AI as part of their digital transformation strategies, but also remain wary of unknown, unintended consequences. This is according to the findings of the latest EY CEO Outlook Pulse survey, which captured the views of 1,200 CEOs across the globe on the macro environment, and their capital allocation, investment, and transformation strategies.

In Asia-Pacific, over two-thirds (70%) of CEOs agree that AI is a force for good, driving business efficiencies and innovation. Further, 68% of CEOs believe the impact of AI replacing humans in the workforce will be counterbalanced by new roles and career opportunities that the technology creates.

However, while CEOs embrace the potential upsides AI can bring for business and society, they are cognizant of the risks of the emerging technology, acknowledging more work is needed to address social, ethical and security risks – from cyber attacks to disinformation and deepfakes. Two-thirds (65%) of CEOs said that the business community needs to focus on the ethical implications of AI, while almost the same proportion (66%) say businesses are not doing enough to manage the unintended consequences of the technology.

Despite these concerns, CEOs are adapting investment strategies to maximize the benefits that AI could bring to their businesses. A significant majority of CEOs (89%) are integrating AI into their capital allocation, of which, 37% are actively investing in the technology, while the other 52% said they are planning to make significant investments in AI in the next 12 months.

Yew-Poh Mak, EY Asia-Pacific Strategy and Transactions Leader, says: 

"CEOs see the huge advantages of AI and its potential to drive productivity and positive outcomes for all stakeholders, spurring interest and investment in AI-driven innovation – they know that bold actions to harness the upside potential will lead to future competitive advantage. CEO are equally concerned about the unintended consequences of AI, and see an opportunity to engage with stakeholders, particularly regulators and customers, on the ethical implications of AI.”

Economic sentiment improves, but Asia-Pacific CEOs cautious of volatility ahead

Asia-Pacific CEOs are cautiously more optimistic about the global economy than at the start of 2023, as only 32% of CEOs expect a severe temporary or persistent downturn, compared to 54% in January. But CEOs remain split on whether they are more optimistic (45%) or less optimistic (37%) about the outlook for their own company’s financial performance than they were six months ago.

For Asia-Pacific CEOs, more than half (56%) expect macroeconomic and market volatility to significantly impact their businesses, while 55% anticipate significant impact from regulatory risks. Geopolitical concerns continue to loom large for Asia-Pacific CEOs, with 62% expecting that geopolitical conflicts and trade tensions will have a significant impact on performance over the next 12 months.

Mak adds: “Asia-Pacific CEOs recognize that ongoing volatility in the macroenvironment could have a significant impact on business performance and are taking the necessary actions —from reconfiguring supply chains to relocating operational assets — to protect their competitive position and support their growth agenda.

“Digitalization, decarbonization, and geopolitics will feature as key strategic themes, requiring CEOs to make significant changes to their business and operating models to address the associated opportunities and challenges. Now that the period of cheap and easy money has passed, leaders will need to be bold, discerning and decisive when allocating capital to support these changes.”

M&A to rebound into 2024 as dealmaking sentiment shifts

Nearly all (99%) of CEOs expect to actively pursue a strategic transaction in the next 12 months (up from 84% in January 2023), with 56% looking to M&A (vs.31% in January 2023), 44% looking to divest (vs. 29% in January 2023) and 53% looking to enter strategic alliances or joint ventures (vs. 44% in January 2023). The appetite to transact is close to a record high but barriers to doing deals in the current market such as increasing regulation and a higher cost of capital could temper many of these plans.

Digital transformation and decarbonization are key themes for M&A in Asia-Pacific, with activity driven by almost three quarters of CEOs (71%) who say that they will either accelerate or maintain their rate of transformative changes over the next 12 months. Furthermore, CEOs are incorporating AI in M&A strategies – leveraging these technologies in their deal sourcing and processing. Seventy-two per cent are incorporating AI into the transaction process, either significantly or through pilot programs. Only a tiny cohort (4%) have no plans to use AI – and they risk being outmanoeuvred by the competition.

Asia-Pacific CEOs remain committed to their sustainability agenda, with 41% (vs. 33% of Americas CEOs) continuing to prioritize sustainability initiatives. A little more than one- third (36%) say that they have placed sustainability on the same level as other business priorities when it comes to capital allocation, and 17% say integrating sustainability into products and services is a primary driver of M&A.

Mak says: “Despite uncertainty in the macro environment, Asia-Pacific CEOs’ appetite for deals has substantially increased since January 2023. Digitalization and decarbonization are key imperatives for Asia-Pacific CEOs and will be key deal drivers as companies look to accelerate their transformation, increase their competitiveness, and mitigate risks.

“The future of M&A dealmaking means significantly more information needs to be captured, processed, analysed, and interpreted than ever before. Traditional means are no longer effective in delivering a competitive edge. AI capabilities, deployed correctly, may be the key to unlocking even more value through M&A.”

To read the full report, please visit: Asia-Pacific EY CEO Outlook Pulse Survey - July 2023 (pdf)


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About the EY 2023 CEO Outlook Pulse

The EY 2023 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey aims to provide valuable insights on the main trends and developments impacting the world’s leading companies as well as business leaders’ expectations for future growth and long-term value creation.

It is a regular pulse survey of CEOs from large companies around the world conducted by FT Longitude, the specialist research and content marketing division of the Financial Times Group.

In June and July 2023, FT Longitude surveyed on behalf of the global EY organization a panel of 1,200 CEOs across Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the United States, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, India, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Respondents represented the following industries: advanced manufacturing and mobility; consumer products and retail; energy and resources; financial services; health sciences and wellness; and technology, media and telecoms.

  • Surveyed companies’ annual global revenues were as follows: less than US$500m (20%), US$500m–US$999.9m (20%), US$1b–US$4.9b (30%) and greater than US$5b (30%). 
  • The CEO Imperative Series provides critical answers and actions to help CEOs reframe their organization’s future. For more insights in this series, visit

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