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Irish CEOs cautiously optimistic amidst uncertainties

Feb 19, 2019
Despite external uncertainties, 57% of Irish CEOs are positive about the growth prospects for Ireland's economy in the year ahead. However, 25% felt unfavourable about the prospects for the Irish economy, up from 17% in 2017.

When it comes to their own businesses, they are more confident: 84% anticipate revenue growth in the year ahead, of which 35% expect ‘strong growth’. This level of ‘strong growth’ is at its highest in the 13-year history of the survey. 63% expect to increase headcount, up from 49% two years ago, while 96% of multinational CEOs based in Ireland surveyed stated that they will increase or maintain their investment in Ireland, up from 91% in 2017. These are some of the key findings from PwC's 2019 Irish CEO survey.

Faced with new realities, the survey highlights that Irish business leaders, like their global counterparts, are focusing on the areas under their control to drive growth. For example, organic growth (70%) is the premier driver of growth, followed by the development of new products or services (58%) and operational efficiencies (54%). Just 16% of Irish respondents stated that they plan to collaborate with entrepreneurs or start-ups (versus 32% globally) and just one in five will seek a new merger or acquisition (against 37% globally).

Similarly, when it comes to the threats holding back growth, the top challenges are key business issues rather than economic or policy issues outside the control of the business leaders. For example, the availability of key skills (84%) and cyber threats (79%) are the top concerns, even surpassing geopolitical risks (76%) and uncertain economic growth (67%). Irish CEOs are also more concerned about real estate costs, inadequate basic infrastructure and the future of the eurozone than their global counterparts.

Speaking at the launch of the survey, Feargal O’Rourke, Managing Partner at PwC Ireland, said: "Despite a dampening mood on the future outlook for our economy compared to two years ago, the survey shows that many Irish CEOs are cautiously optimistic about the future growth potential for their businesses. They continue to focus on having sustainable growth strategies to ensure they remain fit for growth while managing the downside risks."

He added: "The survey highlights that the skills challenge is at an all-time high in the history of the survey. Having a pipeline of relevant skills for a digital world is one of the greatest priorities for businesses. Businesses also need to think beyond today to fully grasp the opportunities that emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, can deliver.

"Clearly, as reflected in the high concerns about geopolitical risks, Brexit is a key disruptor. With the ongoing developments in the UK, businesses still lack clarity on Brexit and the risk of a disorderly exit on 29 March has increased. Irish businesses need to intensify their no-deal contingency planning."

Source: PwC Ireland 18/02/2019