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What are the CFOs planning if the economy goes south?

Faced with the possibility of a flag economy or even a recession, finance chiefs are dusting off books from previous slowdowns and devising strategies for what might come.

In all sectors, companies have inflated, which with 8.3% in April is close to the highest level in decades. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.

Delays in some consumer loans are starting to increase as the money for pandemic incentives runs out. Meanwhile, supply chain grunts and higher commodity prices – triggered by external events such as the Russia-Ukraine war and virus-related lockdowns in China – continue in dog businesses.

Whether these factors merge into a broader slowdown remains to be seen. The CFO Journal asked chief economists in interviews what preparations they made and looked at CFO comments at recent investor events. The following are their comments, some of which have been edited or summarized for the sake of clarity.

Ernst Teunissen, CFO of Tripadvisor Inc., an online travel company based in Needham, Massachusetts

Ernst Teunissen, CFO of Tripadvisor.


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TRIPADVISOR

There may be a recession on the horizon, but there is so much demand in travel that we think it may be one of the last categories that consumers are really going to save. (June 2)

Jonathan Ramsden, CFO of Big Lots Inc., Columbus, Ohio-based discount seller

As a value-oriented retailer, our experience in the past shows that we did relatively well during the recession because people are turning to value and trading is down. That being said, it depends on how big or severe the recession can be. (June 1)

Tom Casey, CFO of LendingClub Corp., a San Francisco-based online lender

We are disciplined not to extend our credit to people who will be most affected by it — hourly wage earners may lose some hours or possibly lose their jobs as the economy slows. It takes time to play it well, and we have already put many of them in our models.

Obviously, higher interest rates put pressure on our investment base and we will continue to work to pass that on to the borrower. Thus, the cost of credit will increase and we will be disciplined about how fast we will do this. (June 1)

Gary Swidler is the Chief Financial Officer of Match Group.


Photo:

Courtesy of Match Group

Gary Swidler, CFO of Match Group Inc., a Dallas-based dating site

I think the business was very resilient to the recession in 2008. It actually experienced a small boom in 2008 amid the Great Depression because people had a little more time on their hands. [A subscription is] they do not spend they will cut them if they can go to meet people and still be happy. And so I do not expect to see a significant impact from a recession on our business. (June 1)

Fernando Tennenbaum, CFO of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, a brewery based in Leuven, Belgium

There are no changes in the prospects this year. We expect 4% to 8% [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization] growth and no change on this front. So far, the consumer is in a good position. So far, the tumors are still in good condition.

Historically, beer has always been durable, so I have no reason to think it would be any different in the future. We continue to be optimistic about the future. (May 31)

Julie Whalen, CFO of Williams-Sonoma Inc., a San Francisco-based household goods company

First of all, we just went through this at the beginning of the pandemic. We have all been through ’08 and ’09. And fortunately, we have a lot of the same management team that is here, so we know how to do it.

Let’s hope we are not in this situation. Certainly, we do not see anything close to this situation today. But we know how to pay back the costs. We know how to cut stock, capital, ads, stop any discreet spending. (May 25)

Brice Hill, CFO of Applied Materials Inc., a chip maker based in Santa Clara, California

Brice Hill, CFO Applied Materials.


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Applied Materials

If the environment changed, what would happen? Usually the first thing that happens is that our customers would not place new orders. This is not the case.

The second thing that would happen is that they would call us and try to repel the existing orders they have. This is not the case.

And the third thing that would happen is that their customers – think of the largest companies in the world that make silicon products – would ask for less, because they are starting to accumulate stocks. That does not happen either.

These are the signals we have today. (May 24)

Josh Charlesworth, CFO of Krispy Kreme Inc.,

a donut chain based in Charlotte, NC

What is lucky in the case of Krispy Kreme, is that you start with a high gross margin. Therefore, for us, the most important thing is that we utilize the labor costs, the operating costs of the donut shops by selling in more and more convenient places. And so you get this low-frequency product with a fundamentally high-margin product combined with a strategy that leverages existing assets and therefore leads to a good margin flow.

This is something that works and works, regardless of the context. (May 13)

Eric Tiziani, CFO of Olaplex Holdings Inc., a beauty manufacturer based in Santa Barbara, California

Eric Tiziani, Chief Financial Officer of Olaplex Holdings.


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Olaplex Holdings

We like to participate in a category that has proven resilient to previous business cycles. In the first quarter of 2022, as he states [market research group] NPD, US retail sales for the prestigious hair care category increased by 32%, the highest increase of any beauty category in the US. And so, we believe that this is a very resilient category in different economic cycles, [it] has significant skies winds behind it, not only for 2022, but for many years.

We are the leader, and therefore we believe that demand will be strong. (May 11)

James Mock, CFO of PerkinElmer Inc., manufacturer of scientific instruments based in Waltham, Massachusetts

It is a demanding market environment. However, we have a lot more recurring revenue to make us more resilient during a potential financial crisis. There is always more to do and we will continue to do more.

But I think a lot of work has been done to prepare us to deal with pandemics or cyclical winds and we will be more resilient in this kind of market environment. (May 11)

Jim Peters, CFO of Whirlpool Corp., a home appliance company based in Benton Harbor, Mich.

As housing stock has tightened and people have ended up staying in their existing homes, remodeling is becoming more attractive again. And so we are looking at all of these factors in the US and for us right now, which is why we are still quite up in demand.

Our biggest issue is to try to stabilize our supply chain so that we can meet this demand. (April 27)

The recent stock market performance has made people talk about a possible recession in the US. So what are the top economic indicators that have been solid detectors of the recession and what can you do to prepare for a recession? WSJ Dion Rabouin explains. Illustration: David Fang

Write to Kristin Broughton at Kristin.Broughton@wsj.com

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What are the CFOs planning if the economy goes south?

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