Bank of Ireland claims 18% rise in lending to SMEs

Bank says it approved €5.3 billion in new credit last year

Bank of Ireland has said it approved €5.3 billion in new credit to Irish small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) last year, which it said was an increase of about 18 per cent on the previous year.

The bank said the €5.3 billion figure did not include any restructuring of old debt. It said it had a market share of more than 50 per cent in new lending to SMEs and farms, based upon its analysis of data from the Central Bank.

It said its business banking unit received 66,000 credit applications from Irish businesses in 2015, up 8 per cent on the prior year. The bank said it had approved 88 per cent of the 16,300 applications it received in the last quarter.

With consumer spending on the rise, the motoring, retail and agricultural sectors figured prominently in its new business lending, the bank said.

Mark Cunningham, managing director of business banking at the bank, said its motor finance division had volume growth of 40 per cent at motor franchises.

He said “the growth trajectory is set to continue, with the bank experiencing a very strong start to the year” in its motor finance division.

The bank had also boosted lending to owners of nursing homes, he added.

“The development and expansion of nursing homes is another area which saw growth in 2015 as businesses recognise the lack of private or public capacity to service an ageing population,” he said.

Overall credit approvals to the agricultural sector were up 7 per cent to €665 million, the bank said. Some of the new lending will have been to farmers expanding their operations for increased sales due to the lifting of the dairy caps last April, while many beef farmers are also expanding their herds as Irish beef makes a push into new markets.

“While milk prices are expected to increase, the time frame for price recovery has extended beyond initial expectations to the second half of 2016,” said Mr Cunningham.

The bank said businesses generally were beginning to expand and invest more.

“This is beginning to be reflected in increased demand for term loans. We expect this trend to continue as the overall outlook for 2016 is positive,” it said.

The bank's business banking division expanded last year with senior appointments including Owen Clifford as head of retail convenience.

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