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Press Release

U.S. CFOs Grow Increasingly Optimistic About Business Environment, Economic Growth, GE Capital Survey Reveals

May 17, 2011

NORWALK, Conn.--17 May 2011-- U.S. chief financial officers (CFOs) of middle-market companies are becoming more positive on the state of the industries in which they operate, as well as on the outlook for growth, according to the latest GE Capital survey of middle-market CFOs. In fact, their level of optimism has increased substantially since they were first surveyed in January 2010.

"As we continue to track CFO sentiment, it's clear that top line growth for middle-market companies is improving. CFOs are more optimistic than they were a year ago, which is evident in their plans to invest in their people and infrastructure," said Dan Henson, president and CEO of GE Capital, Americas. "This is consistent with the uptick in demand we're seeing across our lending and equipment leasing businesses. Our first quarter financing volume was up 83 percent versus the same period a year ago, reflecting much improved activity levels."

The survey, which took place during the first quarter of 2011, included responses from 530 CFOs of companies with revenues ranging from $50 million to $1 billion and operating across seven major industries, including: (1) metals, mining and metals fabrication; (2) food, beverage & agriculture; (3) general manufacturing; (4) healthcare; (5) retail; (6) technology & business services and (7) transportation.

For more information on the GE Capital Middle-Market CFO Survey, visit

Revenue & Profitability

Across the board, CFOs expect that revenues will increase in 2011 compared to 2010, with 72 percent saying they expect higher revenues year-over-year. This is up from 64 percent of CFOs who expected increased year-over-year revenues when asked in January 2010. The survey also found:

  • CFOs of metals, mining and fabrication companies lead this positive sentiment, with 86 percent expecting increased revenues this year.
  • Food, beverage and agriculture CFOs trailed their peers, although slightly more than half (51 percent) expect increased revenues year-over-year. An additional 41 percent expect their 2011 revenues to remain about the same as 2010 revenues.

When asked about profit margins, 82 percent of CFOs expect their profit margins to increase or stay the same in 2011, down slightly from the January 2010 survey when 86 percent anticipated stable or wider profit margins. Rising raw materials costs were cited as a significant potential concern over the next 12 months by 75 percent of CFOs, up from 60 percent a year ago.

  • Metals, mining and fabrication CFOs, were the most positive about increasing profit margins (59 percent),
  • Food, beverage and agriculture CFOs were least optimistic about profit margin improvements (32 percent).


Eighty percent of CFOs expect to hire additional employees in the next 12 months. Of CFOs planning to hire, they expect to increase their workforce by six percent with 80 percent of those positions expected to be permanent workers.

  • Sixty-five percent of CFOs have already begun hiring this year.
  • Transportation CFOs are the most optimistic in their plans to hire, with 90 percent anticipating doing so in the next 12 months.
  • Across all industries, operational positions are expected to make up the largest portion of new hires (71 percent).

Cost Structure

More than half (56 percent) of CFOs expect to grow their cost structures in 2011. This has remained stable since January 2010 when CFOs were first polled.

  • Retail CFOs led this sentiment, with a full 74 percent of CFOs indicating they anticipate increasing their cost structures.
  • Healthcare CFOs, on the other hand, showed a 16 percentage-point decrease in those who expect to increase their cost structures in 2011, compared with January 2010 results.

"By increasing their company's cost structure, CFOs are making a more confident statement about their position in the market," said Henson. "We're seeing our clients take steps to make sure their companies are well positioned to capitalize on new opportunities."

Other Top Findings:

  • Mergers & Acquisitions -- Just over half (53 percent) of CFOs expect more M&A activity within their industries; Transportation CFOs led the group, with 65 percent expecting some activity this year.
  • Credit Ratings -- There was an eight percentage point increase in CFOs who expect to see their credit ratings increase in 2011.
  • Capital Expenditures --Thirty-six percent of CFOs expect to increase their capital expenditures this year (up from 28 percent in January 2010).
  • Financing/Credit -- Capital expenditures top the list of expected financing needs in the next 12 months; credit availability declined the most in a list of potential concerns over the next 12 months to 39 percent, down from 51 percent a year ago.
  • Product/Service Pricing -- Fifty-nine percent of CFOs expect to raise prices on their company's products or services in 2011; Transportation CFOs led this with 78 percent planning price increases.

For additional survey data, contact Ned Reynolds at 203-229-5717.

Editors' Note

Among the CFO surveys published in the U.S., the GE Capital Middle-Market CFO Survey is one of the few that examines businesses across distinct sectors, providing a more comprehensive picture of how financial executives view the world today and their outlook for the months ahead. CFOs surveyed were from an independent Dunn and Bradstreet source of middle-market companies with revenue between $50 million and $1 billion, and average revenue of $146 million.

About GE Capital

GE Capital offers consumers and businesses around the globe an array of financial products and services. For more information, visit or follow company news via Twitter (@GECapital). GE (NYSE: GE) is an advanced technology, services and finance company taking on the world's toughest challenges. For more information, visit

Ned Reynolds
GE Capital
[email protected]
+1 203 2295717
+1 203 8370699

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