Nearly €900m of SME bank loans judged vulnerable to downturn

Nearly €900m of SME bank loans judged vulnerable to downturn

More than 7% - or nearly €900m - of SME loans currently on the books of the country's main banks have been deemed as being "highly vulnerable" by the Central Bank.

This indicates that there would be a higher likelihood these borrowers would have difficulty making repayments should there be another economic downturn.

While a financial stability research note, conducted for the Central Bank, judged SME loan portfolios with the major banks to have shown "a general improvement" it said 7.3% of SME loan balances have high vulnerability scores at this time.

The research covers SME loans on the books of the country's three largest lenders; Bank of Ireland, AIB and Ulster Bank.

In total, these three banks have €12bn worth of outstanding loans to SMEs on their books.

Of this overall amount, the Central Bank research indicates €875m could be exposed to a financial shock.

The risky credit mainly relates to term loans and overdraft facilities. Hire purchase and leasing agreements only account for 1.5% of the vulnerable loans.

The research found that borrowers in the accommodation and food, and wholesale and retail sectors made up just over half of "high vulnerability" loan balances.

"Both sectors appear to be over-represented relative to their share of outstanding lending," the note said.

Almost a quarter of vulnerable loans relate to SMEs located in Dublin, with the south-west the second highest problem zone.

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