French midsize companies still expect growth all around amid rising costs to do business
On par with last year, more than half of French midsize business leaders are feeling optimistic about the global (58%), national (56%), and local and regional (55%) economic outlook in the year ahead, according to J.P. Morgan’s second annual France Business Leaders Outlook survey released today. This is in spite of 53% expecting a recession in 2023—a lower rate than their European counterparts in the U.K. (69%) and Germany (59%)—and gearing up for its repercussions.
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Economic outlook for 2023 (Graphic: Business Wire)
“The challenges faced by French midsize and fast-growing companies over the last several years have prepared them for dealing with heightened uncertainty in the coming year,” said Olivier Simon, Head of Commercial Banking, France and Benelux, J.P. Morgan. “Business decision makers continue to demonstrate their ability to quickly adapt to global and local challenges and overcome them.”
In a survey of more than 250 senior executives from French midsize companies, business leaders continue to showcase their confidence and resiliency. In spite of many bracing for a recession in 2023, nearly three-fourths (72%) plan to maintain or add additional headcount in the year ahead, more than two-thirds (68%) of French midsize business leaders are still expecting an increase in revenue and sales, and six in ten (61%) foresee a rise in profits.
“Many French companies have had to adjust to today’s landscape of high inflation and other external pressures,” said Kyril Courboin, Head of France, Senior Country Officer, J.P. Morgan. “Though they have practical expectations of the real threats ahead, French business leaders have remained fairly optimistic with expectations for business growth.”
Responding to Inflation and Navigating Supply Chain Challenges
As inflation continues to be a top challenge for the business community globally, more than half (56%) of French business leaders have experienced rising costs as a result.
- The business leader’s impact: Of those experiencing inflation challenges, two-thirds (67%) report that the increased cost of raw materials, as well as the increased cost of energy (62%) is driving higher business costs.
- The business leader’s response: To help compensate, most leaders (70%) indicate they are offsetting up to half of their increased costs by passing them along to the consumer. Of those, 85% are likely to continue increasing prices for their consumers in the year ahead.
Additionally, many business leaders also report continued supply chain challenges, with 63% noting that it has worsened over the past 12 months.
- Nearshoring: In response, 35% of French midsize businesses leaders are continuing to shift manufacturing to new geographies, and more than 30% now adding new suppliers from new geographies, a trend that has somewhat accelerated from 2022.
- Other adjustments: Slightly more business leaders (38%, up 5% from 2022) are also increasing their allocation of funds to cover higher costs related to moving products while a similar share is changing materials or manufacturing processes.
Navigating Energy Uncertainty, A Top Challenge for the French Business Community
Energy prices are considered the top external threat by one-third (33%) of French business leaders, which remain the highest among their European counterparts: UK (25%) and Germany (23%). As a result, companies who noted energy prices as their top external threat plan to invest in renewable energy sources (69%) in the coming year.
Responding to Labor Market Challenges and Addressing Social and Environmental Urgencies
French decision makers continue to navigate the complex job market and labor shortages, and most expect to either add to (41%) or maintain (31%) headcount over the next 12 months.
To help retain and attract talent, business leaders are responding to employee expectations by:
- Increasing wages and benefits (46%)
- Providing flexibility on work hours and location (43%)
- Investing in automation technology (43%)
- Offering flexible work hours (42%)
Corporate social responsibility also remains a priority for French midsize business leaders, who place increased importance on environmental factors like reducing carbon emissions, waste management and energy efficiency (54%, up 21% from 2022), particularly in light of the current energy crisis and conservation strategies being rolled out across France. In addition, 44% claim that focusing on energy and environmental factors has enabled their company to establish or reinforce their positioning within the community, followed by enhancing marketing and finding new customers (43%).
Business in the Year Ahead
In the upcoming year, decision makers are focused on expansion into new markets—both domestic and international (46% and 42%, respectively)—as well as the prioritization of profitable products and services (40%) and introduction of new products (32%).
Additionally, the majority of French business leaders have a full or partial transition plan in place with one-third planning to transfer to family (50%, up 10% from 2022) or sell to a third party or sales management group (33%). The vast majority (67%, up 23% from 2022) expect these transitions to take place in the next two years.
For more information on the 2023 France Business Leaders Outlook, visit jpmorgan.com/business-outlook-FRA.
J.P. Morgan’s Business Leaders Outlook survey was conducted online from November 21 – December 8, 2022. In total, 254 business leaders (CEOs, CFOs, heads of finance and owners) from French midsized companies (annual revenues ranging from EUR €20 million to €2 billion) across various industries. Results are within statistical parameters for validity, and the error rate is +/- 6.2% with a 95% confidence level.
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