Swedish companies are in a more bullish mood than most of their European counterparts and are in expansion mode as a result, according to a survey of chief financial officers.
In the study by consultancy Deloitte and Nordic bank SEB, Swedish chief financial offers (CFOs) accounted for the largest increase in positive sentiment about their capital expenditure plans of all countries in a European survey. Sweden’s CFOs reported feeling increasingly optimistic about the immediate future and are showing a greater willingness to invest. The CFO index shows an increase to 59.9 from a solid 58.2 in spring 2017, the highest level since February 2011.
There is a shift towards more expansive priorities, where investments, geographic expansion and introduction of new products are gaining in popularity. Concerns about negative effects from macro and political factors continue to subside.
The survey also points to a shift towards using surplus capital for investment rather than for repaying loans. “Swedish companies are basically well managed and have stable financial positions,” said Henrik Nilsson, a partner at Deloitte. “This is leading to more expansive measures than previously, especially now as companies are seeing an upswing in global demand across a broader front. Uncertainty in the world is rather high, but stable.”
Concerns are rising, however, about a shortage of qualified labour in Sweden. “Worries about a shortage of labour are rising in all sectors, which is alarming as this may result in production bottlenecks, which by extension could dampen growth,” said Karl Steiner, an economist at SEB Research.
A clear majority of Sweden’s CFOs (78%) expect to see higher interest rates in the coming year. One in 10 CFOs said their primary strategy in the face of higher interest rates would be to reassess planned investments.
“The CFOs’ strong expectations for higher interest rates and their strategy for dealing with this indicates a certain risk that the expansive agenda may be hampered somewhat in the coming year,” said Mr Steiner. “What’s interesting is that Swedish CFOs are considerably more certain about higher interest rates than their European counterparts, and even more so than their counterparts in the other Nordic countries.”
The Deloitte/SEB CFO Survey aims to illuminate changes in sentiment among Swedish CFOs and thereby foster an understanding for economic and financial trends. It is published twice a year. The complete report is available at www.sebgroup.com\press and www.cfosurvey.se. The survey was conducted in September and asked 21 questions in areas such as business climate, strategic priorities, labour, financial strength and attitudes towards lending among banks and financial institutions.