AI and broader data collection can overcome the “trade finance gap” by improving credit scoring for SMEs in trade finance, says Michael Boguslavsky, head of AI at Tradeteq and author of a white paper released today.
LONDON: Tradeteq, the trade asset distribution platform, has today released a white paper aimed at demonstrating how machine learning, combined with broader data collection, can improve access to trade finance for SMEs. Authored by Michael Boguslavsky, Tradeteq’s head of AI, and titled Machine Learning Credit Analytics for Trade Finance, the paper proposes a radical new approach to credit scoring that could particularly benefit SMEs in trade finance.
The paper states that traditional models – such as the Altman Z-score – use a “linear discriminant” analysis, which is based on several accounting indicators. While widely utilised, such scoring presents a number of issues for SMEs – including focusing on a small number of accounting entries while ignoring valuable non-accounting information. Such hard requirements make credit scoring impossible for companies that miss even one entry. Being based on accounting data filed on an annual basis, traditional scoring also lacks timely information.
“Over the years there have been many attempts to improve traditional credit scoring,” says Michael Boguslavsky, “such as adding new financial ratios or replacing the Altman Z linear approach with other models. But they have never been very successful. What’s needed are models able to leverage non-homogenous data from multiple data sources – dramatically improving both quality and timeliness of credit event prediction.”
Boguslavsky’s white paper argues that a good predictive credit model for trade finance lending should:
- accommodate varying data availability across companies to increase the depth of datasets,
- leverage a broad set of available and emerging data sources, including geographical data,
- utilise trade network data, including common clients, suppliers, or bank relationships, to spot irregularities and predict credit risk.
It’s this approach that will allow for a broader understanding of SMEs’ credit risk, leading to fewer loan rejections and improved credit decisions, claims Boguslavsky.
“The combination of machine learning techniques with deep and broad data coverage generates a neural network model that can outperform the traditional Altman Z-score and similar models even on pure registration data,” says Boguslavsky. “And this without using any accounting inputs – hence it’s potentially revolutionary impact on SMEs seeking trade finance.”
Tradeteq’s trade asset distribution platform generates credit scoring in just such a way, with the aim of expanding the universe of trade finance investors by encouraging an “originate to distribute” model by trade finance banks. The company – officially launched in March 2018 – is now looking for partnerships and collaborations to work on transaction-level trade finance datasets, leveraging Tradeteq’s expertise in deep data analysis and the broad data sourced from partners to produce state-of-the-art credit analysis for the trade finance community. The white paper Machine Learning Credit Analytics for Trade Finance can be downloaded here.
- Tradeteq provides a collaborative network for trade finance investors and originators to connect, interact, and transact. Tradeteq connects trade finance originators with funders and gives them the technology to interact and transact efficiently.
- The Tradeteq Marketplace delivers AI-powered credit analytics, reporting, investment, and operational solutions – transforming trade finance assets into transparent and scalable investments able to attract institutional funding.
- The Tradeteq Marketplace helps trade financiers build an “originate-to-distribute” model – helping banks overcome balance-sheet constraints within their lending portfolio by efficiently distributing trade finance assets to a broad investor base.
- After a soft launch in 2017, Tradeteq was officially launched in March 2018.
Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile
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.
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)
UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn
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)
Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights
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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