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Government launches £330bn coronavirus business loan scheme

The government has launched the first stage of a £330bn loan guarantee scheme for businesses, to help small and medium-sized firms borrow up to £5m to help them weather the impact of coronavirus.

“Any viable business” with a turnover of up to £45m will be able to apply to banks for an 12-month interest-free loan, 80 per cent of which will be guaranteed by the government under its Business Interruption Scheme, the Treasury said.

“We know that businesses are in urgent need of access to funding during these unprecedented times,” said business secretary Alok Sharma, who added that the scheme “will ensure that credit keeps flowing to where it is needed, when it is needed”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week unveiled an unprecedented package of measures aimed at supporting businesses and employers struggling with the economic impact of coronavirus, including tax deferrals and an employee retention scheme.

The Treasury said this morning that further measures would be announced to ensure large and medium-sized businesses could access financing.

The Bank of England this morning announced the opening of a scheme to buy up debt known as commercial paper, issued by large businesses which had an investment-grade credit rating or similar level of financial health before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

BoE governor Andrew Bailey said the corporate financing scheme would “help businesses manage through this period of uncertainty”.

“Combined with steps taken by the government, this will help companies through this difficult time and support the needs of the people of this country,” he added.

Bailey said last week that the Bank would look at widening the financing scheme to firms with lower credit quality, or buying other financial instruments such as asset-backed commercial paper.

By Anna Menin

Source: City AM

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Coronavirus eating into SME cash

Over two-thirds of UK SMEs (69%) have reported significant pressures on their cash levels according to latest insights from business lender MarketFinance. This is in large part down to businesses paying for supplies earlier than anticipated because of Coronavirus-related stockpiling and fears of deeper disruptions to transport (road, air and rail) linkages.

Additionally, on orders and work that has been completed, payments are being delayed. Three-quarters (74%) of business owners reported invoices due to be settled at the end of February have not been paid yet (as of 10th March 2020) and that these were unlikely to be settled before the end of March 2020.

Over a third (36%) of business owners feared they won’t survive to Easter (6 weeks) if they were unable to secure some finance to bolster their business. Meanwhile, as economic conditions worsen, and with the possibility of widespread quarantine implemented across parts of the country, businesses will need to have financial and operational contingency plans in place to protect jobs, industry and communities.

Anil Stocker, CEO at MarketFinance, commented: “The impact of the Coronavirus spread is being felt by SMES across the UK as finance and supply chains are disrupted. At the best of times, only around half of these businesses are cashflow positive. Today, businesses are feeling a palpable sense of helplessness and isolation and there is a lack of specific information on how to cope with the crisis.”

“At the moment cash is king and if businesses are being starved of this cash, it will leave them stranded. Whilst policy efforts play out to contain the spread of Coronavirus, business owners should brace themselves for some turbulence and have a prepared mindset for the scenarios ahead.”

“Rishi Sunak has a golden opportunity to prove that he is a champion of UK SMEs. There is a role for government to work with businesses, banks and other lenders to ensure a resilient economy. It will be the smallest businesses that are most hit as they have the least bargaining power in global supply chains. They could, for example, give businesses VAT / tax ‘holidays’ to ensure that they have enough money to cover immediate costs.”

Source: Business Money