European SMEs worry economic outlook may affect external finance: survey

More small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the euro area perceived the general economic outlook as an impediment to the availability of external finance, according to a survey published by the European Central Bank.

The latest round of the Survey on the Access to Finance of Enterprises, published twice a year, examined results for the period from April to September 2019.

It found that for the first time since mid-2016, euro area SMEs reported deterioration in profits in net terms, down from zero in the last round to minus 1 percent, as SMEs continued to report growing labor costs and other costs, as well as rising interest expenses.

In net terms, SMEs continued to indicate improved availability of bank loans, the survey found, but more perceived the general economic outlook as an impediment to the availability of external finance, in particular for those in Spain, Finland and Italy.

However, only 7 percent of respondents were concerned about access to finance. Their more pressing concerns were the lack of availability of skilled labor and the difficulty of finding customers.

This round of the survey had a sample size of 11,204 firms, about 91 percent of which had fewer than 250 employees.