Business leaders most pessimistic in three years: PwC report

Global business confidence has fallen to a three-year low, according to an international survey.

A survey of more than 1,400 CEOs paints a gloomy picture of the global business environment as corporate leaders contemplate a rising tide of threats.

The results were released as political and business leaders gathered in the Swiss resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) commissioned the report and its chairman Dennis Nally said the results were worrying.

"When you look at 2016, I think the CEOs are really concerned," he said.

"It's a less positive result this year than just a year ago, the trend line is not good."

The trend line has not looked good for some time, with analysts saying business confidence has not really recovered strongly since the Great Recession.

China's economic problems are now at the top of the business worry list, according to Mr Nally.

When the service sector comprises 60 per cent of China's GDP, then China's economy will be totally stable.

Wang Jianlin, chairman Dalian Wanda Group

"China's at a significant transition as we all know, but I think it's just one more factor that raises questions and concerns," he said.

"Instability of the markets - whether it's currency, volatility - it's just this continuation of events that create more instability and that creates uncertainty on the part of the CEOs.

"And when you're thinking about businesses and you're thinking about investments and where you're going to try to position your company for the longer term, not good for that type of thought process."

China's Dalian Wanda Group is the world's largest real estate enterprise and the biggest five-star hotel owner in the world.

Wang Jianlin has served as the group's chairman since 1989 and said there is no need to be concerned about China's economy.

"Absolutely not. I do not only use the word 'not', I have to stress 'absolutely' not," he responded emphatically.

"It's true that there are difficulties in the investment and export sectors, maybe there's zero growth or even negative growth.

"But the service industry in China has great demand, especially in tourism, going abroad, sports, movies, catering.

"So, after three or five years, when the service sector comprises 60 per cent of China's GDP, then China's economy will be totally stable."

Geopolitical threats, energy prices shake business confidence

Despite trillions of dollars of stimulus and record low interest rates among developed countries, PwC said just 27 per cent of CEOs expect global economic growth to improve over the next 12 months.

That compares with 37 per cent last year.

It is not just tepid economic growth and volatile markets that are making it harder for business leaders to commit to big investments.

"Concerns about the global economy, obviously, and the volatility that exists," said Dennis Nally.

"Secondly, the concerns about the geopolitical issues that are out there, which has got all the potential to continue to be disruptive and unstable, and you put the two together and the outlook for 2016 [is] not as encouraging as certainly most of us would have hoped for or expected at this point in time."

Hollywood star Leonardo Dicaprio was also on hand to draw attention to another big issue affecting business decisions.

Mr DiCaprio was one of four recipients of the World Economic Forum's annual Crystal Awards.

He used his acceptance speech to update the forum on his climate change work.

"The Paris Agreement was a call to action, but it's now up to all of us to build this progess with ingenuity and a commitment to change," Mr DiCaprio said.

"Together we are fighting to preserve our fragile climate from irreversible damage and devastation of unthinkable proportions."

The energy sector is at the epicentre of the climate debate.

It also happens to be, according to the experts, what is making many business leaders most nervous about the global economic outlook.

Source: ABC News

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