Business outlook mixed amid credit crunch

Alex Druce
(Australian Associated Press)


Nearly a third of small and medium businesses say they’re finding it harder to get a loan as Australia’s scandal-hit financial sector tightens its purse strings in the wake of the royal commission.

A KPMG survey of 130 company directors and executives also revealed, with the federal budget a week away, just half of small and medium enterprises are optimistic about their prospects over the next five years.

One in two business say they’ve been hit by the housing market downturn.

KPMG’s annual pre-Budget Client Pulse Check may have reflected a more positive sentiment than a year ago, but tax partner Brent Murphy said stricter loan availability and housing market woes were weighing on the outlook.

“If the mid-market is finding it more difficult to obtain bank loans, that will hamper future growth,” Mr Murphy said.

“That is as worrying as lack of overseas expansion, which forestalls entry into new markets.”

Many of nation’s major lenders have tightened conditions on investor loans and have moved away from high-risk loans as details of the sector’s misdeeds piled up under the gaze of commissioner Kenneth Hayne last year.

KPMG said wider political uncertainty and potential changes in policy, as well as property price declines, were also to blame for any pessimism in mid-sized business sector.

Just 51 per cent of survey responders said they were optimistic about their five-year outlook, with 17 per cent pessimistic.

Good vibes took another hit on the topic of personal finances, with just 31 per cent holding an optimistic outlook for their own wallet, and 15 per cent pessimistic.

Despite this, Mr Murphy said small to medium enterprises had displayed a general feeling of cautious optimism, at least in comparison to 12 months ago.

“Mid-market companies are ready and willing to invest in their business,” Mr Murphy said.

“They recognise that only by harnessing new technology and innovation will it be possible to get ahead, combat disruption and tackle competitors in an ever-shifting economic climate.”

The federal budget will be handed down in Canberra on April 2.


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