Press release

29 Mar 2024 Bangkok, TH

CEOs forecast increase in revenues, profits and deal making in 2024, as business transformation moves up the agenda

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  • CEOs forecast increase in revenues, profits and deal making in 2024, as business transformation moves up the agenda (Thai) 209 KB Download
  • Almost two-thirds of CEOs globally anticipate a rise in their revenues and profits, despite the challenging global economic environment
  • 58% accelerating their transformation plans, almost tripling since July 2023, and transformative megadeals predicted to return in 2024
  • Election super-cycle within the next 12 months creating political uncertainty and business challenges for companies in many countries 

BANGKOK, 29 March 2024. Chief Executive Officers (CEO) are optimistic about their ability to drive revenue growth and profitability in 2024 despite global economic headwinds, according to the latest EY CEO Outlook Pulse survey

The EY quarterly survey of 1,200 global CEOs across 21 countries, on their prospects, challenges and opportunities, shows they are bullish on business performance even in a low growth environment. A significant majority of CEOs surveyed (c. 64%) expect an increase in revenue growth and profitability.

This optimism comes despite acknowledgement of a continued challenging macroeconomic environment with three-quarters of CEOs surveyed expecting the global economy to continue to endure low growth and they are preparing for interest rates staying “higher for longer” due to ongoing inflationary pressures. Over half (57%) are forecasting an increase in the cost of business.

Oraphun Cheng, Partner, Strategy and Transactions, EY Thailand, says:

“Even though CEOs expect continued stagnation of the global economy, this hasn’t dampened their drive for profitability. Exhibiting a newfound resilience and confidence, CEOs are on the hunt for opportunities to drive efficiencies and transform their business for growth. Anticipating an upswing in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market now showing signs of recovery, many are now meaningfully revisiting their business transformation plans, scanning for smart investments and laying groundwork for potential alliances.”

Lift-off for deals market in 2024

CEOs are anticipating a deals market bounce-back with 79% of respondents predicting an uptick in M&A megadeals above US$10bn. Thirty-six percent of respondents are also actively pursuing M&A transactions over the next 12 months and a further 29% are seeking divestments. The US maintained its position as the most attractive target region in terms of M&A activity followed by Japan, the United Kingdom, China and India. Manufacturing was identified as the top sector for M&A deals closely followed by ‘banking and capital markets’, ‘insurance’, ‘consumer products’ and ‘mobility’ rounding up the top five.

This quarter, the survey also captured the perspectives of 300 private equity (PE) leaders across more than 20 countries, regarding their investment and portfolio management outlook. Mirroring CEO sentiment, the majority of surveyed PE leaders (71%) also predict an uptick in megadeals. Seventy percent of surveyed PE leaders predict an increase in corporate divestment or carve out activity in 2024, signifying a more buoyant deals market than seen in the previous year.

Transformation plans speed up, with a focus on efficiencies and cost management  

Underpinning the rise in CEO confidence is a rush toward strategic transformation, 58% of CEOs surveyed are accelerating their business transformation agendas – a significant leap, almost tripling from 21% in July 2023. In stark contrast, only 5% now report having no transformation plans, a fall from 37% in July 2023.

Nevertheless, despite the bullish sentiment, CEOs are demonstrating pragmatism in their approach to business transformation. Primary focus areas include efficiency enhancements and cost management strategies. Namely, more than 40% of CEOs and private equity leaders surveyed are prioritizing effectively managing their working capital. CEOs are also embracing technology as an efficient driver, looking to adopt artificial intelligence to drive efficiency and bolster business performance. Interestingly, while surveyed CEOs embrace AI to deliver efficiencies, three in four (76%) agree the technology will have little impact on revenue growth.

“If 2023 was the year of transition as organizations grappled with a ‘poly-crisis’, 2024 is shaping up to be the year of action. With an acceptance that the costs of doing business are unlikely to fall to pre-pandemic levels, we’re seeing a shift in how CEOs approach business transformation, balancing optimism with pragmatism and focusing on efficiency and cost management.”, Oraphun adds.

Geopolitical risks take center-stage in bumper year for elections

With over half of the world’s population going to the voting booth over the next 12 months, CEOs are acutely aware of geopolitical risks and the potential business impact. Over three-quarters of those surveyed (78%) are worried about the potential rise of populist movements to increase geopolitical uncertainty and create business challenges. Seventy-six percent of respondents were also concerned about the political misuse of AI in major 2024 elections.

While many CEOs feel confident about their organization’s ability to integrate geopolitical turbulence into their decision-making, nearly half (48%) of respondents believe there is room for improvement in their defined and active processes for managing geopolitical risks. In fact, 98% of CEOs and PE leaders surveyed are having to make alterations to their investment plans including exiting certain businesses (32% of CEO respondents and 38% of PE respondents) or delaying a planned investment (42% of CEO respondents and 32% of PE respondents).

“The influence of the political world on the corporate world is as strong as ever. CEOs are well aware of the need to integrate geopolitical turbulence in their strategic plans. However, with election super-cycle within the next 12 months, this creates political uncertainty and business challenges (both direct and indirect) for companies in many countries. With many still unsure about their relevant risk management processes, now it is the time to revisit and refine strategies to navigate through a volatile geopolitical landscape.”, Oraphun concludes.

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