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In boardrooms, there’s a real fear that Italy could leave the euro zone

David Reid
Italy's new right-wing government is giving global executives concern their business and the wider economy.

Italy's battle with Brussels has triggered fears among executives that continental Europe's third biggest economy will soon vote to leave the euro zone.

Italy now has a right-wing populist government at its helm, with much of the power appearing to lie in the hands of interior minister and far-right Lega (League) leader Matteo Salvini.

Euroskepticism operates as a main policy of Italy's new coalition between Lega and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) party. It has criticized European Union (EU) guidelines on immigration, public spending, trade deals, agriculture and sanctions against Russia. The far-reaching discontent has led to suggestions that Italy could exit from the euro zone.


According to the latest CNBC Global CFO Council quarterly survey, published Thursday, the fear is being felt in boardrooms worldwide with almost 77 percent of global respondents having some sort of concern that Italy will turn its back on Europe.

The CNBC Global CFO Council represents some of the largest public and private companies in the world, collectively managing more than $4.5 trillion in market value.

Almost two of every three chief financial officer respondents said an Italian exit is likely to negatively impact their companies over the next six months, while the figure jumps to 90 percent when asked about the effect of such a move on the wider European economy.

The council's global economic outlook for the euro zone remains positive with 20 out of 42 respondents saying that the region's gross domestic product (GDP) is "improving." The overall rating for the euro zone in the latest survey is rated at "stable."

The C-suite financial controllers were also asked about the impact of the 2016 vote by the United Kingdom to leave the EU. Britain officially leaves the political and economic alliance in March next year.

Almost 63 percent of respondents said that the Brexit vote had already had a "negative" effect on the U.K. economy with almost 12 percent claiming it had been "very negative."

But when considering their own company, nearly 70 percent of the executives said there had been "no impact" whatsoever.

(Note: Forty-three of the 103 current members of the CNBC Global CFO Council responded to this quarter's survey, including 20 North American-based members, 17 EMEA-based members, and six APAC-based members. The survey was conducted from June 1 to 17, 2018.)