Euro zone firms worry about lack of customers, not funding

Small companies say they now have access to more credit than needed

Finding customers remains the dominant concern for euro area SMEs, a new study shows

Finding customers remains the dominant concern for euro area SMEs, a new study shows

 

Small euro zone companies feel they have access to more credit than they need for the first time since 2009 as they struggle to find customers, a survey by the European Central Bank showed on Wednesday.

Small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of the euro zone’s economy and mainly rely on bank lending, which the ECB is trying to revive through a large scale asset-purchase programme and low interest rates. The bank is expected to ease its policy further on Thursday.

The survey of 11,226 enterprises, the vast majority of which have fewer than 250 employees, showed more companies reported an increase in the availability of bank loans and overdrafts beyond what they needed in the first half of 2015.

“The external financing gap of euro area SMEs, which measures ... the perceived difference between the need for external funds and the availability of funds, has become negative ... for the first time since 2009,” the ECB said.

Finding customers remained the dominant concern for euro area SMEs, which in part accounts for their reluctance to borrow. One quarter mentioned customers as their main problem, broadly in line with the previous survey.

Only 11 per cent of firms said access to finance was their chief problem. Most others chose regulation, competition, cost of production and availability of skilled labour.

The picture was slightly different in Greece, where companies reported a steep net increase in their need for bank credit but a drop in its availability.

Reuters