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‘Keeping afloat’; the recurring reason for UK SME funding

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‘Keeping afloat’; the recurring reason for UK SME funding

Liberis research shows 30% of the UK’s small businesses require funding for survival, with ‘keeping afloat’ cited as a top five reason for funding request[i] 

Research published today by leading small business finance provider Liberis finds that nearly 30% of UK SMEs require funding simply to stay afloat.[ii]

Across a broad range of criteria made available for business owners, ‘keeping afloat’ scored amongst the top five reasons for finance requests; with ‘purchasing new equipment’, ‘keeping up to date’, and ‘other operating costs’ also scoring highly.

The research also found the most common sum of a request was of around £30,000 and was required to take the business to the next-level.[iii]

Today, there is an understood resistance from banks to lend to UK small businesses, prompting concern on the wider impact on UK small business survival rates.[iv] Liberis’ research also found there is a perceived reluctance among UK banks to invest in risk and innovation, indicating a demand for alternative financing options.

As the lifeblood of the UK economy, SMEs contribute more than £200bn a year[v], with this number expected to grow by almost 20% by 2025. Yet, without a vital cash injection, this 2025 vision will be severely stinted.

With 62% of UK small businesses[vi] viewing funding as a mechanism to grow, it is worrying that 55% are unable to access this required funding.  Concerned for the growing pressure and expectations on banks and other mainstream finance providers, alternative financing providers such as Liberis, can provide a simple, flexible and transparent funding system to help UK SMEs achieve their ambitions.

Partnering with companies including Worldpay, Sage Pay and JustEat, Liberis has a direct reach over 750,000 UK small businesses and supports SMEs in obtaining cost-effective funding.

Commenting on the report, Rob Straathof, CEO at Liberis, said: “In an increasingly uncertain economic climate, there is a greater need to protect our small businesses and provide them with much needed working capital. Liberis occupies a space which has been left empty by the traditional role of banks and lenders to provide financial support to small businesses. We’re on a mission to support small businesses and help them reach their goals.  From the local bakery to the neighbourhood pub, we’re here to provide a lifeline to keep them afloat.”

Earlier this year, Liberis announced a funding investment of £57.5million to support an estimated 100,000 jobs by 2020. The amount was secured in combined funding from British Business Investments, Paragon Bank, BCI Finance, and Blenheim Chalcot, the UK’s leading digital venture builder; and demonstrates Liberis’ long-term aim in supporting UK small businesses through such partnerships.

Straathof, added: “The traditional channels of business loans and funding are, in today’s ever-changing world, no longer able to operate at the same capacity at which they were once expected. In fact, the total amount of bank overdrafts and loans outstanding to small businesses has decreased by nearly £6 billion of the past 5 years according to UK Finance Q2 2018 research. This has enabled Liberis to protect UK businesses as we aim to provide much needed working capital – not only based on credit history, but business potential too – whilst delivering a trusted financial product through credible partners.”

To date, Liberis has helped over 8,000 SMEs, advanced £250m in funding through its Business Cash Advance and supported over 35,000 jobs in the UK.[vii] Moving forward, the company aims to further empower small businesses, broadening customer reach through strategic partnerships and international expansion.

[i]Liberis Q2 Research, August 2018

[ii]Liberis Q2 Research, August 2018

[iii]Liberis Q2 Research, August 2018

[iv]The Financial Times, March 2018

[v]January 2018

[vi]Liberis Q2 Research, August 2018

[vii]Since 2007

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Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile

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Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile 1

By Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) – Renault said on Friday it is still fighting the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shortage of semiconductor chips, that could make for another rough year for the French carmaker.

Renault reported an 8 billion euro ($9.7 billion) loss for 2020 which, combined with gloomy take on the market, sent its shares down more than 5% in late morning trading.

“We are in the midst of a battle to try to manage a difficult year in terms of supply chains, of components,” Chief Executive Luca de Meo told reporters. “This is all the collateral damage of the Covid pandemic… we will have a fairly volatile year.”

De Meo, who took over last July, is looking at ways to boost profitability and sales at Renault while pushing ahead with cost cuts. There were early signs of improving momentum as margins inched up in the second half of 2020.

The group gave no financial guidance for this year, although it said it might reach a target of achieving 2 billion euros in costs cuts by 2023 ahead of time, possibly by December.

Executives said they were confident the carmaker could be profitable in the second half of 2021, but that they lacked sufficient market visibility to provide a forecast.

Renault struck a cautious note, saying it was focused on its recovery but warned orders had faltered in early 2021 as pandemic restrictions continued in some countries.

The group is facing new challenges as the European Union tightens emissions regulations and after rivals PSA and Fiat Chrysler joined forces to create Stellantis, the world’s fourth-biggest automaker.

The auto industry endured a tough 2020 but a swift rebound in premium car sales in China helped companies such as Volkswagen and Daimler to weather the storm.

Auto companies globally have since been hit by a shortage of semiconductors that has forced production cuts worldwide.

“The beginning of the year has shown some signs of weakness,” De Meo told analysts, but added the chip shortage should be resolved by the second half of 2021. “We have taken the necessary measures to anticipate and overcome challenges.”

Renault estimated the chip shortage could reduce its production by about 100,000 vehicles this year.

SHARP HIT

The group was already loss-making in 2019, but took a sharp hit in 2020 during lockdowns to fight the pandemic, which also hurt its Japanese partner Nissan.

Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected a 7.4 billion euro loss for 2020. The group posted negative free cash flow for 2020.

The 2018 arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who formerly lead the alliance between Renault and Nissan, plunged the automakers into turmoil.

In a further sign that the companies have been working to repair the alliance, De Meo told journalists that Renault and Nissan will announce new joint products together in the coming weeks or months.

Renault has begun to raise prices on some car models, and group operating profit, which was negative for 2020 as a whole, improved in the last six months of the year, reaching 866 million euros or 3.5% of revenue.

Analysts at Jefferies said the operating performance was better than expected. Sales were still falling in the second half, but less sharply.

Renault is slashing jobs and trimming its range of cars, allowing it to slice spending in areas like research and development as it focuses on redressing its finances. It is also pivoting more towards electric cars as part of its revamp.

It was already struggling more than some rivals with sliding sales before the pandemic, after years of a vast expansion drive it is now trying to rein in, focusing on profitable markets.

De Meo told journalists on Friday that the French carmaker will make three new higher-margin models at its Palencia plant in Spain, where manufacturing costs are lower, between 2022 and 2024.

($1 = 0.8269 euros)

(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume and Sarah White in Paris, Nick Carey in London; Editing by Christopher Cushing, David Evans and Jan Harvey)

 

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UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn

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UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn 2

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s finance ministry said it would delay publication of its review of business rates – a tax paid by companies based on the value of the property they occupy – until the autumn when the economic outlook should be clearer.

Many companies are demanding reductions in their business rates to help them compete with online retailers.

“Due to the ongoing and wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the government said the review’s final report would be released later in the year when there is more clarity on the long-term state of the economy and the public finances,” the ministry said.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak has granted a temporary business rates exemption to companies in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, costing over 10 billion pounds ($14 billion). Sunak is due to announce his next round of support measures for the economy on March 3.

($1 = 0.7152 pounds)

(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)

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Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights

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Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights 3

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) – Pepco Group, which owns British discount retailer Poundland, has targeted 400 store openings across Europe in its 2020-21 financial year as it expands its PEPCO brand beyond central and eastern Europe, its boss said on Friday.

The group opened a net 327 new stores in its 2019-20 year, taking the total to 3,021 in 15 countries. The PEPCO brand entered western Europe for the first time with openings in Italy and it plans its first foray into Spain in April or May.

Chief Executive Andy Bond said its five stores in Italy have traded “super well” so far.

“That’s given us a lot of confidence that we can now start building PEPCO into western Europe and that expands our market opportunity from roughly 100 million people (in central and eastern Europe) to roughly 500 million people,” he told Reuters.

To further illustrate the brand’s potential he noted that the group has more than 1,000 PEPCO shops in Poland, which has a significantly smaller population and gross domestic product than Italy or Spain.

The company, which also owns the Dealz brand in Europe but does not trade online, has already opened more than 100 of the targeted 400 new stores this financial year.

Pepco Group is part of South African conglomerate Steinhoff, which is still battling the fallout of a 2017 accounting scandal.

Since 2019 Steinhoff and its creditors have been evaluating a range of strategic options for Pepco Group, including a potential public listing, private equity sale or trade sale.

That process was delayed by the pandemic, but Steinhoff said last month that it had resumed.

“The business will be up for sale at the right time. It’s a case of when, rather than if,” said Bond, a former boss of British supermarket chain Asda.

Pepco Group on Friday reported a 31% drop in full-year core earnings, citing temporary coronavirus-related store closures.

Underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were 229 million euros ($277 million) for the year to Sept. 30, against 331 million euros the previous year.

Sales rose 3% to 3.5 billion euros, reflecting new store openings.

($1 = 0.8279 euros)

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Goodman)

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