dcsimg
RealTime IT News

Tech Firms' CFOs Less Optimistic About Economy

Chief financial officers (CFOs) at high-tech firms are more pessimistic about the state of the economy and about their own companies' financial prospects than CFOs from other industries, according to a new study by Financial Executives International (FEI) and Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. What's more, one-third of all high-tech CFOs say their companies are not at all recovered from the recession.

The latest quarterly "CFO Outlook Survey" does not paint technology CFOs as a bunch of happy campers who are just waiting to spend money on things like instant messaging, 802.11, grid computing or ultra wideband networking. "The technology industry is in a lot of pain," said Dr. John Graham, Professor of Finance at Fuqua and director of the survey. "While we're seeing some glimmers of a pickup, tech CFOs have let us know that they're not envisioning a speedy recovery."

Technology companies expect an overall capital spending decrease in the next quarter of .75%. This compares to a revenue-weighted average increase of .3% across all industry sectors. Of the high-tech firms surveyed, 93% say they are spending cautiously or holding off on all or nearly all capital investments, and only 7% are spending at a normal rate.

Technology companies expect an overall capital spending decrease in the next quarter of .75%. This compares to a revenue-weighted average increase of .3% across all industry sectors. Of the high-tech firms surveyed, 93% say they are spending cautiously or holding off on all or nearly all capital investments, and only 7% are spending at a normal rate.

In terms of technology spending next quarter, the average increase among all companies is expected to be a modest 1.9%. Tech companies, tracking the larger group, expect to increase their tech spending by 1.6%.

About one-third (33%) of technology-company CFOs are more optimistic about their companies' financial prospects than last quarter, but an almost equal number (30%) are less optimistic. In terms of their optimism about the US economy, only one-quarter (26%) were more optimistic and 40% were less so. Technology CFOs had the lowest "more optimistic" and the highest "less optimistic" percentages across all industries.

Thirty-seven percent of high-tech CFOs, meantime, said their companies were "not at all recovered" from the recession -- the highest percentage of any industry group. Only 2.3% said they were completely recovered. Twenty-three percent said they are "beginning" their recovery; another 23% are "moderately" recovered; 7% are "well on the way to recovery"; and another 7% "never slowed down."

Technology company CFOs say that their companies' third quarter earnings will be higher than the second quarter's, but they expect an average increase of just 4.9% -- in the low range of earnings expectations. The revenue-weighted average increase expected across all companies is 14.4%.

Despite an expected tightening in capital spending, technology companies anticipate to increase their inventory by 2.9% next quarter. Technology was the only industry planning an increase; across the board, overall inventory is expected to decrease by 1% next quarter. Tech companies also expect to raise the prices of their products 2.6% -- on average, the highest of any industry.

Tech companies expect employment to fall .6%. When hiring, perhaps not surprisingly, 70% say it is not difficult to find qualified workers, the survey added.

Forty three, or 12% of the 358 companies that participated in the survey were in the technology industry. The survey itself was taken during the second week of June via an Internet-based poll. Among the industries represented are retail/wholesale, mining/construction, manufacturing, transportation/energy, communications/media, technology, banking/finance/insurance, and services/consulting.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.