Bushfires intensify SME demand for credit

Majority of businesses feel sure a loan would help compensate for the disastrous season’s impact

Bushfires intensify SME demand for credit


By Madison Utley

New data has helped give shape to the depth and breadth of this bushfire season's impact on Australian enterprise, with two-thirds of all small businesses throughout the country indicating they've either been directly or indirectly affected by the natural disaster, according to a survey conducted by NAB in early February.

While the effects were felt directly by the business owners whose property was physically damaged in the blaze, many also reported indirect consequences such as business disruption, higher insurance and other costs and lower customer confidence.

Further, over 70% of the respondents expect the fallout to continue impacting their business over the next three months.

“We know many families and businesses face an uncertain future and we recognise the significant impact the fires have had on cashflow, loss of customers and supplier disruption,” said NAB chief customer officer of business and private banking Anthony Healy.

“Business owners have also shared the physical and mental health impact of the bushfires, including describing the unsettling effects of having to send employees home and sending customers away due to poor air quality.”

Owners of utility and wholesale trade businesses expect to be most affected over the next three months, at 81% and 79% respectively. Around 75% of the transport and storage sector and agricultural businesses think they’ll feel the effects of the bushfires for at least the next year.

The survey also found that one in four impacted SMEs are planning to take up the government’s $500,000 loan offer, with a higher concentration forecasted in vulnerable bushfire areas, in New South Wales and in major capital cities.

By industry, take up is expected to be highest in mining, telecoms and accommodation, cafes, restaurants and clubs.

Around 75% of the SMEs surveyed believe the loan could help their business compensate for some or all of the bushfire's impacts.

When asked what government should do to most help businesses impacted by the bushfires, around 60% of survey respondents indicated cash grants would help most and 50% named interest free or reduced rate loans.

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