Central Bank data throws doubt on banks’ SME lending claims

Business lobby group Isme has expressed doubt that the pillar banks are really back lending to small enterprises to the extent to which they claim.

Speaking on the back of fresh Central Bank data showing that lending to SMEs declined for the 20th consecutive quarter in the three months to the end of September, Isme chief executive Neil McDonnell said “we’re still seeing that the pillar banks, despite a lot of talk, are not really aggressively back in the [SME lending] market.”

While the Central Bank’s latest figures show that gross new lending to SMEs was €359m higher in the last quarter than at the same period last year they also show bank credit to all Irish SMEs declined for the 20th consecutive quarter. 

The lending was driven in large part by new loans to the property investment and development sector.

“SME credit declined by 4.5% over the third quarter of 2016 to stand at €30.9bn. This represented an annual decrease of 11.7%,” the Central Bank said. 

“Lending to core SMEs contracted by 9.9%, year-on-year, in the third quarter, as repayments exceeded new drawdowns by €784m. As in the second quarter, this was mainly driven by wholesale and retail SMEs. Lending to core SMEs has declined markedly in contrast to larger enterprises, which have been net borrowers in the last five quarters,” it said.

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