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Key findings

• The survey findings show that CFOs face a tough dilemma  - companies need growth, but overseas investments are now riskier

• The risk-reward dynamic is changing and companies now face higher risk to make the same reward

• CFOs have redrawn the map of investment risk and reward, with Iran, Iraq and Greece top of the perceived riskiest markets. The ‘big seven’ (China, USA, Brazil, India, Germany, Russia and UK) lead the index as attractive investment markets, due to size and customer potential

• CFOs in 2012 are finding it more difficult to conduct business abroad than three years ago. Reasons cited include the poor economic situation (31%), increased regulation (25%) and greater competition (22%)

• Geopolitical risks and currency fluctuations and tensions have replaced bureaucracy and red tape at the top of the list of investment concerns

• There appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel for Southern Europe. CFOs now see parts of Europe as risky as the politically unstable countries of the Middle East

• The result is that businesses have become more cautious, with 66% of CFOs planning to significantly increase investment in ‘safe haven’ markets – including the BRICs, US, UK and Germany – rather than taking a gamble on riskier destinations

• China remains the number one investment destination, topping the BDO Global Opportunity Index for the third year running, while France and Japan have slipped down to 13th and 27th place respectively

• Despite the challenges faced, CFOs have reported an average increase of 9% in their company’s international revenues over the past financial year, with Indian and Russian companies seeing the highest average overseas revenues (18% and 17% respectively)

• The mood of CFOs in 2012 is more subdued than 2011 - only 24% of CFOs are very optimistic about their expansion plans, compared to 49% in 2011

• The eurozone crisis has had a particular knock-on effect for Chinese and Brazilian companies: their decisions on where to invest have been impacted by the crisis more than the eurozone markets themselves

• Almost half (46%) of CFOs cited securing good advice from reliable people on the ground as their chief insight for successful international expansion

Click here to see the survey results infographic