DAVOS, Switzerland — The confidence of global business leaders about their company’s growth prospects in the next 12 months is down from 2012, heavily influenced by uncertainty over the prospects for the world economy, a survey of 1,330 chief executive officers from 68 countries conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers International found.

The study also revealed that ceo’s plan to continue slashing costs and to increase the focus on their customers. For 2013, 36 percent of the ceo’s polled were “very confident” about their firm’s growth prospects, down from 40 percent last year, said the survey, released here on the eve of the opening of the annual World Economic Forum.

“Ceo’s remain cautious about their short-term prospects,” said Dennis M. Nally, chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Given the high levels of economic volatility, risk has now become the new norm.”


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Major concerns span a range of issues, Nally said, adding that “81 percent listed uncertainty and volatility over economic growth as their primary concern.” He said more than half of the ceo’s think the world economy will stay about the same this year, 28 percent feel it will decline and about 18 percent predict global growth.

Nally said another year with the global economy “reluctant to recover” will test the abilities of ceo’s to adapt to new challenges and added that the focus over the next 12 months will be to refine operations and “cut costs, where they can, without reducing value.”

“Almost 80 percent of ceo’s took steps to reduce costs in the last 12 months, and the same amount plan to do so in 2013,” he said.

Nearly half of those see significant shift in customers’ buying patterns as a “serious business threat,” and half said one of their top priorities for the next year will be growing their customer base and ushering in new strategies “to stimulate demand, customer loyalty.”

The survey shows that 82 percent of ceo’s “anticipate making changes to their customer growth and retention strategies.” Companies are also increasing their use of technology and social media, the poll showed, with 75 percent saying they are investing more in technology driven by online delivery and customer service, Nally said.

But he also stressed that nearly half are “pinning their hopes on growth of existing markets and only 25 percent are turning to new product development.”

China topped the list of countries seen as most important for future growth, cited by 31 percent of respondents, followed by the U.S. with 23 percent, Brazil at 15 percent, Germany with 12 percent and India at 10 percent.

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