Small firms in euro zone say finding finance harder

FRANKFURT Thu Nov 14, 2013 4:05am EST

FRANKFURT Nov 14 (Reuters) - Small businesses in the euro zone say it has become more difficult to get access to credit in the past six months, with great differences in loan availability across the region, the European Central Bank said on Thursday.

In a survey on access to finance of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), 12 percent of survey participants reported that their loan applications had been rejected, compared with 11 percent in the previous survey, conducted six months earlier.

The ECB also said that financing conditions for small firms varied greatly within the 17-country bloc, with half the smaller businesses in Greece, Spain and Italy saying access to finance was a "very pressing problem".

Germany was the only country where bank loan availability improved in the April to September period form the previous six months.

"Euro area SMEs also reported a marginal deterioration in the availability of bank loans," the report said, and added that small firms in Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium said the deterioration of bank loan availability was accelerating.

"The percentage of SMEs reporting access to finance as their main problem remains broadly stable at 16 percent," it said.

It showed that only a third of Greek and Dutch firms, which applied for a loan, received full approval, compared to four-fifths of those in Germany and Finland.

The report also said that financing conditions were more difficult for small companies than for large ones, and that interest rates vary widely across the region and were rising in Spain and Italy.

"Mainly SMEs in Spain and Italy contributed, on balance, to the reported increase in bank lending rates, whereas SMEs in Germany and France indicated on balance a decline," the survey said.

The survey of 8,305 euro zone firms was conducted between Aug. 28 and Oct. 4.

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