New research has revealed a gloomy outlook among chief executives, particularly about growing geopolitical risks.

PwC's Annual Global CEO survey found only 35 per cent of bosses were "very confident" about growth within their own firms, down from 39 per cent in 2015.

More than 1400 CEOs were interviewed for the research, presented today at the opening of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

The results mirror investor concerns about the world economy, which triggered a major sharemarket sell-off this year. Only 27 per cent of chief executives expect global growth to improve over the next 12 months, a 10 percentage point drop from last year, according to the research. Twenty-three per cent of those surveyed expected the economic situation to worsen.


"There's no question that business leaders' confidence in both the global economy and their own company growth prospects has taken a knock," said PwC global chairman Dennis Nally.

"No matter what the business size, the threats it faces are becoming more complex, crossing the borders of geopolitics, regulation, cyber security, societal development, people and reputation. There is a new spectrum of risks for CEOs that represents threats to both national and commercial interests."

Geopolitical uncertainty, such as conflict in the Middle East, jumped from fourth in last year's survey to the second-biggest risk this year, cited by 74 per cent of respondents.

There is a new spectrum of risks for CEOs that represents threats to both national and commercial interests.


"Global conflicts are also connected to anxieties about social instability and readiness to respond to crises, named by 65 per cent and 61 per cent of CEOs, respectively," PwC said in its report. "Cyber security is also a worry for 61 per cent of CEOs representing as it does to both national and commercial interests."

PwC said CEOs were keeping a close eye on developments in China, which reported its slowest annual rate economic growth (6.9 per cent) in 25 years yesterday.

Over-regulation, cited by 79 per cent of respondents, was seen as the top threat to companies' growth prospects.

5 Top concerns of CEOs


Over-regulation (79 per cent of respondents)

2 Geopolitical uncertainty (74 per cent)

3 Exchange rate volatility (73 per cent)

4 Availability of key skills (72 per cent)

5 Government response to fiscal deficit and debt burden (71 per cent)

Source: PwC Annual Global CEO