Small businesses could be facing debt of £105bn due to coronavirus

Sobering new figures show that business debt could be growing to an unsustainable level over the course of coronavirus lockdown

New research shows that the UK’s SMEs could be racking up an unsustainable debt bill of up to £105bn during the coronavirus lockdown.

TheCityUK’s Recapitalisation Group suggest that by March 2021, the debt of UK financial non-profit corporations (PNFCs) could be between £90bn and £105bn, of which CBILS could contribute between £10bn and £20bn. They say that this level of unsustainable debt could stifle future employment, research and development, investment and general economic recovery.

To address the debt, firms may have to raise equity and/or restructure their debt. Historical data shows that the total amount of private equity investment in 2018 was £20.6bn, total private equity into SMEs in 2018 was £6.7bn and bank lending to SMEs in 2019 was £57bn. ‘Significant volumes’ of structured capital from existing and other sources is vital to the long-term competitiveness of the economy.

In a letter to the Bank of England governor, TheCityUK’s leadership council chairman, Adrian Montague, wrote: “Small unlisted businesses (including micro firms, family-owned businesses and sole traders) have different requirements. Many are financed by closely-held equity and branch bank lending; they have little or no contact with professional investors; and yet their resilience and prosperity is vital to local employment and to the health of the economy as a whole.

“Their needs are urgent and immediate, and we will return to their position as soon as we can. We recognise they may need grant support, but we will consider whether there are other instruments that could address their needs at a lesser cost to the Exchequer.”

Miles Celic, chief executive officer of TheCityUK, also said: “The economic lockdown created by the pandemic has required unprecedented interventions. Businesses have been put into suspended animation until they can safely reopen. This was absolutely the right thing to do, but it means the job is not yet done. The economy will need to be reawakened as part of its process of recovery.”

Read more

State could take equity in small businesses, suggests Lloyds chairman

Avatar photo

Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.

Related Topics