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Majority of CEOs see slower global GDP growth in 2020, PwC survey shows

A majority of CEOs across the globe believe that world GDP growth will slow in 2020, while business optimism among company heads slumped to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Of the 1,581 CEOs surveyed by PwC, 53% saw global GDP growth declining in 2020, marking the first time the figure exceeded 50% since 2012. In 2018, 57% of CEOs expected global GDP to improve in the following year, PwC noted.

Pessimism was prevalent across all regions, with CEOs in North America the most pessimistic about global growth prospects for 2020 at 63%, followed by Western Europe at 59% and the Middle East at 57%.

The gloomy outlook on the world economy may have affected executives' expectations regarding the growth of their businesses, according to PwC.

Confidence levels among CEOs regarding their companies' 12-month and three-year revenue growth prospects fell to their lowest since 2009. Only 27% of business executives said they were very confident about their companies' revenue growth in the next 12 months, while 34% said they were confident about their three-year prospects.

At least one out of every three CEOs surveyed said they were concerned about over-regulation, trade conflicts, uncertain economic growth, cyber threats and policy uncertainty. The availability of key skills and geopolitical uncertainty were also major concerns among CEOs in the year ahead, PwC data showed.

The subdued outlook was concerning, but not surprising, according to PwC Global Chairman Bob Moritz. "Shifting headlines around trade conflicts, climate change, political strife, cyber threats, social unrest and the like, cloud CEOs outlook on the road ahead," Moritz said, while adding that opportunities still lie ahead for companies willing to invest in data privacy, upskilling and sustainability initiatives.