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WorldCity’s 4th annual CEO Survey: Optimism wanes for multinational execs

South Florida’s multinational business leaders are certainly less optimistic than in past years but also indicate they are holding up OK in the face of the global recession, according to preliminary results of WorldCity’s ongoing CEO Survey.

For the fourth consecutive year, WorldCity has polled the top executive at each of the 1,100 multinationals in WorldCity’s Who’s Here database to determine their thinking on their business, the economy, Latin America and more. The survey is sponsored this year by Telefonica.

Generally, these “CEOs” — they carry a wide range of actual titles but all head a multinational operation based in South Florida — are an optimistic bunch. Less so this year.

The largest percentage of those responding are in charge of Latin America and the Caribbean, at 43 percent, with another 9.2 percent having the entire Western Hemisphere, 3 percent having the Caribbean and 1.5 percent having Latin America only or a portion of it. An additional 12.3 percent having global responsibilities, which would include Latin America and the Caribbean. About 30 percent do not involve themselves with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Preliminary findings:

— *2009 Performance*: A solid 44.6 percent said their companies’ performance is better in 2009 while 40 percent indicated it was worse. The final 16.9 percent said it was the same.

— *General Outlook*: When asked “how optimistic are you about growth in your region?” the top two responses were “growth is likely to be poor for the short term but then improve” at 30.7 percent followed closely by “growth is likely to be moderate for the foreseeable future” at 29.2 percent. Another 24.7 percent indicated “growth is likely to be moderate for the short term then pick up,” the more optimistic of the three top choices. Only 6.1 percent said “growth is likely to be strong for the foreseeable future,” the most bullish option.

— *U.S. Recession*: The largest group, 56.9 percent, say it will end within seven to 12 months while 18.4 percent say within six months. It’s already over, according to 4.6 percent and 6.1 percent believe it will extend all the way into 2012. The final 13.8 percent indicate they believe it will end in 2011. In a separate question, just under 40 percent indicated the U.S. recession had had a significant impact on business, with slightly more than 60 percent calling it moderate.

— *Global Recession*: The results are, not surprisingly, somewhat similar, with a touch more pessimism. Only 40 percent indicate it will end within six to 12 months while 40 percent — compared to 13.8 percent on the U.S. recession — believe it will extend into 2011. In a separate question, 40 percent said the global recession was having a signficant impact and 60 percent indicated it was moderate.

— *Performance Report Card*: The strongest “grade” by country, in no particular order, are Brazil (B, 41 percent), Argentina (C, 37 percent), Chile (C, 50 percent), Mexico (C, 37 percent), Venezuela (C, 26 percent; D, 26 percent), Central America (C, 37 percent), Andean Region (C, 54 percent), Caribbean (C, 43 percent).

— *Hiring*: Three clusters here, with 26.1 percent saying they have reduced work force but do not expect to reduce further, another 26.1 percent indicating they have not hired this year and do not intend to do so in the near future, and 23 percent indicating they have not hired this year but intend to do so in the near future.

— *Travel*: Generally good news here, with 52.3 percent saying they have maintained the travel budget despite the challenging economy, but 33.8 percent admitted to reducing it.

— *Marketing*: Almost half, 49.2 percent, indicated they have maintained the marketing budget, with 29.2 indicating they had reduced the budget. Interestingly enough, 23 percent have increased their marketing budgets in 2009.

— *Technology*: Real strength here, as 72.3 percent indicated they have kept the technology budget intact, perhaps not such a good sign in normal times but these are not normal times. An additional 20 percent had increased their technology budgets in 2009. Only 9.2 percent indicated shaving dollars from the budget.

If you head a multinational office in South Florida and have not completed the brief and anonymous survey, we encourage you to do so. “Download survey results”:https://www.worldcityweb.com/uploads/WorldCitys_4th_Annual_CEO_Survey.xls

For more information about WorldCity’s CEO Club, an exclusive every-other-month event series for the heads of multinationals in South Florida, please contact WorldCity’s Director of Community, Tak Takasu at ttakasu@45.56.65.150. The next event is Aug. 28.