Rob Warlow Managing Director of Business Loan Services (UK) Ltd talks to Antur Cymru Enterprise about business finance in Wales.
If you ask business owners “How has the business been?”, the answer is either “We’ve had our worst year ever” or “We’ve had our best year ever”.
In challenging times there are always Winners and Losers, we look at finance options for finance for businesses in Wales.
The Winners have been the online retailers; home improvement stockists; home-based entertainment suppliers; and technology enablers. The Losers are well known, being the traditional bricks and mortar retailers, and those in hospitality, and leisure.
One issue common to both in 2021 will be access to finance.
The government has provided unprecedented levels of support via its various loan schemes, primarily the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS). The latest figures from the British Business Bank reveal that so far 1.5m loans have been distributed with £68bn borrowed.
The appetite for borrowing has been insatiable with UK Finance reporting that lending to SMEs in the first three quarters of 2020 amounted to more than double the annual total for 2019.
A combination of the level of new debt and a challenging economic environment will influence the finance-raising landscape in 2021. Both Winners and Losers will find access to finance tougher than before.
Whilst the Winners have the benefit of strong sales growth, positive cash flow and healthy Balance Sheets, such success brings a new set of financial pressures. Growth often results in a larger debtor book, increased stockholding and investment in plant and equipment, all of which must be funded.
Although growth is positive, the Winners will face stricter lender criteria. The High Street lenders have already started tightening up the basis on which they will do business and identifying the industry sectors they are comfortable with (or not).
High Street lenders will be there for the strongest of businesses but where else do Winners go for alternative sources of finance?
Short Term Lenders: these are ideal for facilities with repayment terms from 3 to 12 months. Providers such as Iwoca, Just Cashflow and Fleximize can cover requirements for stock purchases, tax payments or general cash injection.
Asset Finance: purchasing equipment and vehicles via HP or Leasing has been a popular source of finance. With increased demands, Winners can preserve cash by purchasing capital items via an Asset Finance facility.
Invoice Finance: businesses selling on credit terms, can leverage against invoices. Releasing cash against an invoice will provide an immediate boost to working capital instead of waiting 30, 60 or 90 days for payment.
What about the Losers which have been negatively impacted? The bottom line is that although the above sources of finance will be available (particularly Invoice Finance), 2020 losses, weaker Balance Sheets, the existence of a BBLS or CBILS, and a build-up of creditors will lead to finance-raising challenges.
If you are in this position, then 2021 may be a year of soul searching. Even if you could raise finance, would it be right to take on more debt? The proper step is to seek advice from your Accountant, Business Advisor, or a Licenced Insolvency Practitioner.
This year will bring challenges for both the Winners and Losers and it will be down to planning, researching options and taking the right advice.
Are you looking for business finance in Wales?
Rob Warlow is the Managing Director of Business Loan Services (UK) Ltd. Visit www.businessloanservices.co.uk for more information.