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Singapore CFOs most pessimistic in Asia-Pacific about profit rise: survey

Chief financial officers (CFOs) in Singapore are the most pessimistic group in the Asia-Pacific.

CHIEF financial officers (CFOs) in Singapore are the most pessimistic group in the Asia-Pacific, with only 37 per cent expecting profit to rise this year compared to the regional average of 73 per cent, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2015 CFO Outlook Asia survey showed on Monday.

In Singapore, 30 companies participated in the survey, with just over half having annual global turnover of US$5 billion to US$10 billion. Overall, 630 respondents were polled.

Just over half of these Singapore CFOs expected profit to decline during the year, more than double the regional average. Consequently, more than 80 per cent of them are looking to boost efficiencies and cut costs.

About half of the Singapore CFOs said they were considering a change in their China strategies, amid fears of slowing growth and higher costs in the country. Of those, several have already moved their Asian headquarters out of China to another country in Asia in the past year. Many are also considering a shift out of China.

"Being a small and open economy, Singapore is more exposed to developments globally. With uncertainties looming over the eurozone and China's growth, coupled with difficult conditions at home, CFOs are finding it challenging to stay competitive," said Gregory Seow, Southeast Asia head of corporate banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

"Companies are reviewing their investment and expansion plans, opting for a more defensive stance by reining in operating costs and pursuing opportunities to innovate and automate," he said.