SME Cashflow Index. A report for FD Solutions. December Centre for Economics and Business Research ltd

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1 SME Cashflow Index A report for FD Solutions Centre for Economics and Business Research ltd

2 Contents SME Cashflow Index Introduction & key findings 3 The SME Cashflow Indices 4 Cashflow Index 5 Profit & Working Capital Indices Factors affecting SME cashflow Macroeconomic factors affecting SMEs Appendix 13 Contact This report is produced by Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) as part of our macroeconomic trends, analysis and forecasting advisory membership service, The Prospects Service. This report and all associated material shall remain the property of Cebr and are only made available to bone fide employees of organisations with a current and fully paid-up membership of The Prospects Service. Such materials may not be disclosed or transmitted to individuals or organisations outside the member organisation without prior written permission from a director of Cebr. Cebr is not licensed in the conduct of investment business as defined in the Financial Services and Markets Act Any client considering a specific investment should consult their own broker or other investment adviser. Any views on investments expressed by Cebr, or on behalf of Cebr, are intended to be generic only. Cebr accepts no liability for any specific investment decision which must be at the investor s own risk. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the material in this report, neither the authors nor Cebr will be liable for any loss or damages incurred through the use of this report or associated materials. 2

3 SME Cashflow Index Introduction and Executive Summary The SME Cashflow Index is a report designed to investigate and monitor the financial and economic factors affecting small and medium sized enterprises in the UK. The Index and report are commissioned by FD Solutions, a provider of Finance Directors available on a part-time basis. The analysis is based on a survey of FD Solutions clients. The data compiled to make the Indices are gathered by FD Solutions on a monthly basis and aggregated to make the quarterly time series. In Q3 2013, the SME Cashflow Index indicated an even split between SMEs with negative and positive cashflow. However, this was well up from a year ago, reflecting strengthening economic conditions. The net balance of firms reporting profits before tax remained firmly in positive territory. However, working capital remains under pressure, as a net balance of firms accounts show negative working capital movements in Q

4 The SME Cashflow Indices Centre for Economics and Business Research ltd

5 SME Cashflow Index Cashflow conditions in 2013 much improved on previous year SME Cashflow Index * In Q3 2013, the SME Cashflow Index stood broadly at the zero mark, indicating an even split between the number of firms reporting negative and positive cashflow during the three months. Although the net balance of firms reporting positive cashflow is down from the first half of 2013, cashflow conditions are much less negative than at the same point a year ago in line with strengthening economic conditions. However, the continued pressure on SME cashflows illustrates the fact that the economy is still far from recovered. UK GDP remains 2.5% below its pre financial crisis peak in real terms Q Q Q Q Q Q Source: FD Solutions, Cebr analysis * See appendix for calculation method 5

6 SME Cashflow Index Firms are reporting profitability but working capital remains under pressure The proportion of SMEs reporting positive profit before taxation levels continues to stand firm, at 56.0% in Q This is against a share of 44.0% of SMEs reporting negative profits before taxation, giving a net balance of 12.0%. This is marginally down from the 15.3% balance the previous quarter, but well into positive territory. However, SMEs report negative movements of working capital on average. In Q3 2013, 57.2% of firms had negative working capital flows, compared to 42.8% with positive flows of working capital. This suggests that although the economy is strengthening, pressure remains on small and medium-sized businesses day-to-day finances SME Profit Index and Working Capital Index * Q Q SME Profit Index Q Q Q Q SME Working Capital Index Source: FD Solutions, Cebr analysis * See appendix for calculation method 6

7 Factors affecting SME cashflow this quarter Centre for Economics and Business Research ltd

8 SME Cashflow Index Actions for improving cash flow identified this quarter This quarter Activities carried out to improve cashflow this quarter included educating clients about margins and upskilling finance teams. In addition, many forecast models were built to help clients better understand their business and identify potential insolvency issues on the horizon. Next quarter Getting invoices paid as early as possible was raised as an issue in several cases important as, according to Grant Thornton s International Business Report, UK businesses face some of the slowest invoice-payment times in the world. Attempting to get a better interest rate on cash deposits was raised in one case. A focus was placed on board meetings in several instances, including implementing the first ever meeting for one company, as well as placing an emphasis on the visibility of cashflow measures in board presentation slidepacks. Assistance with refinancing and finding alternative sources of finance was raised as an issue at some companies this quarter. 8

9 Macroeconomic factors affecting SMEs Centre for Economics and Business Research ltd

10 Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q SME Cashflow Index Business confidence continues to climb among all sizes of business According to the ICAEW / Grant Thornton Business Confidence Monitor, confidence among SMEs increased to an index reading of 32.2 in Q4 2013, broadly in line with levels among larger firms. A score of 100 would indicate that all firms are much more confident about their prospects over the coming year than the previous 12 months. This is the fifth consecutive increase, taking confidence levels among SMEs further into positive territory and well up from those seen a year before. Rising business confidence suggests that economic growth is likely to continue at a robust pace during Business Confidence Index by company size SMEs (0-249) Large (250+) Very Large (1000+) Source: Grant Thornton / ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor 10

11 Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Expectations SME Cashflow Index Demand for credit stands well up on a year ago for the UK s SME population According to the Bank of England, both small and medium-sized businesses increased their demand for overall lending (i.e. unsecured and secured credit) in Q Demand has risen throughout 2013 and contrasts sharply to falling credit demand at the same point a year before. In addition, demand for lending is expected to continue to increase in Q for smaller businesses, and to increase at a faster rate for medium-sized businesses Change in overall demand for lending from small and medium-sized private non-financial companies, weighted net balance * 11 Small businesses Small businesses defined as those with less than 1m annual turnover. Medium have 1m - 25m per year. Source: Bank of England * Method for weighted net balance given in Appendix. Medium-sized businesses

12 Aug-09 Feb-10 Aug-10 Feb-11 Aug-11 Feb-12 Aug-12 Feb-13 Aug-13 SME Cashflow Index Borrowing costs falling back for SMEs According to the Bank of England, interest rates offered to SMEs have been falling back during the second half of The average interest rate offered to small businesses in August 2013 stood at 4.71%, following a downward trend from 4.86% in March Likewise, the average rate offered to mediumsized enterprises dropped to 3.3% in August from 3.4% in February. This reduction in the cost of borrowing for the UK s SMEs may reflect the effects of the Bank of England s Funding for Lending scheme. The programme aims to boost lending to smaller businesses by reducing the wholesale cost of finance for banks lending money to SMEs. 5.0% 4.8% 4.6% 4.4% 4.2% 4.0% 3.8% 3.6% 3.4% 3.2% 3.0% Median interest rates on variable-rate facilities for SMES, three month average Small businesses Medium-sized businesses Small businesses defined as those with less than 1m annual turnover. Medium have 1m - 25m per year. Source: Bank of England 12

13 Appendix Centre for Economics and Business Research ltd

14 SME Cashflow Index Method and definitions The SME Cashflow Index is calculated as a balance on a rolling average basis. The proportion of respondents reporting negative cash flow over the month is subtracted from the proportion of those reporting positive cash flow. This gives a net balance. To smooth for volatility, a rolling three month average is used. The Index is based on the financial data from a sample of roughly 100 SMEs compiled and gathered monthly by FD Solutions. The net percentage balance, as calculated by the Bank of England in their Credit Conditions survey responses is worked out as follows. Lenders are asked to describe how credit conditions have changed. Those who report a lot of change are assigned twice the score of those who report that conditions have changed a little. Responses are then weighted by lender s market share. Positive responses are subtracted from negative ones to give a net percentage balance score. 14

15 Contact For enquiries on this research please contact the author: Rob Harbron Senior Economist +44 (0) Centre for Economics and Business Research ltd Unit 1 4 Bath Street London EC1V 9DX T F E cebr.com

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