14. France

France has approximately 4.2 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for 99.9% of the total business population. The total number of firms has increased by 7.7% between 2020 and 2022.

The stock of outstanding business loans to SMEs soared in 2020 by 28%, partly due to the Government loan guarantees scheme as a response to the pandemic crisis. The stock of outstanding business loans to SMEs stabilised at 348 558 million in 2022, an increase of 32% relative to 2019. As a result, the share of SME outstanding loans in total business loans has risen slightly, exceeding the pre-crisis average by 1.3 percentage points.

In recent years, SME demand for short-term loans has fluctuated significantly. The pandemic crisis fuelled SME demand for short-term credit with the stock of SMEs short-term outstanding loans increasing by 125% year on year in 2020 and the share of SME short-term loans in total business loans rising by 72%. The trend shifted in 2021 as SMEs started repaying their short-term loans. By 2022, the share of SME short-term loans dropped to 9.3% due to SMEs' preference for long-term credit.

Interest rates for SMEs and large companies increased in 2021 and 2022 after a major drop in 2020, but stabilised in 2022 above the pre-crisis level. The interest rate gap between SMEs and large companies widened in 2022. Access to financing for SMEs has become slightly more difficult, as indicated by the rising rejection rate exceeding pre-crisis levels.

In 2022, private equity investments declined by 9%, following an exceptional year in 2021. Nonetheless, the number of companies funded through private equity rose significantly, marking a 14.5% increase compared to 2021 and exceeding the average level observed between 2012 and 2021. Investments in venture and growth capital (EUR 5.1 billion invested, +11% vs. 2021) and expansion capital (EUR 5.4 billion invested, +3% vs. 2021) are on the rise. The sub-total of venture capital, growth capital and expansion capital investments has grown 4.4 times in 10 years.

Crowdfunding continues to grow, despite macro-economic, geopolitical and health-related turbulence. Since 2015, the annual volume of equity crowdfunding provided through the platforms grew by a multiple of 14. Crowdfunding platforms benefit from a specific regulatory framework since 2014 which enables them to operate without a minimum amount of equity.

Factoring volumes increased by 15.5% in 2022, as did the number of ongoing operations (+ 7.9%). Activity development has been important since the pandemic crisis, with a 30% increase of volumes compared to 2020.

The plan France 2030 seeks to position France as a leader in innovation in key sectors. Following a decrease in investments in 2020, it recovered in 2021. Investments in digital, healthcare and consumer goods account for 73% of total investment.

In 2020, the French government initiated a EUR 100 billion recovery plan ('France Relance'). Stemming from COVID-19 crisis responses. This plan, grounded in three pillars (environment, competitiveness, and cohesion), seeks to overhaul the economy and generate new employment opportunities. Additionally, the French government has introduced measures to address inflation and high energy costs, including energy assistance programmes such as capping electricity prices.

The financial stability of French companies was impacted by both the COVID-19 crisis and the rise in gas and electricity prices. Strengthening the balance sheet was a critical concern to safeguard the investment capacity of SMEs and mitigate the risk of insolvency. Credit mediation and loan programmes remained crucial in supporting SMEs.

In 2020, France registered around 4.2 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs), constituting 99.9% of the total business landscape. Micro-firms accounted for 96.4% of the total business population and 96.5% of SMEs. French SMEs employed 46% of the workforce and contributed to 43% of the total value added.1 The overall number of firms increased by 7.7% between 2020 and 2022.

The Central Credit Register of the National Bank of France collects monthly data on loans over EUR 25 000 granted to enterprises (legal units). The data include both, loans drawn (utilised) and undrawn (not utilised), for enterprises resident in France. Data is available for both loans to all firms as well as on loans to SMEs (both independent and belonging to a group, but excluding individual entrepreneurs).

In 2020, outstanding loans to SMEs experienced a remarkable growth (+28%) due notably to the government's loan guarantee system aimed at mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic crisis. By 2022, the level of outstanding business loans to SMEs had stabilized at a higher level than 2021 (348 558 vs. 337 906 in 2022), standing significantly above the observed figure in 2019 (263 367). This trend can be attributed to SMEs cash flow deterioration since 2021, requiring a loan to finance their operations. The share of SME outstanding business loans in total business loans slightly increased, surpassing the pre-crisis average, reaching 20.9% in 2022.

In the last years, the SME demand for short term loans has fluctuated significantly. The pandemic crisis fuelled SME demand for short term credit, with the stock of outstanding short-term loans for SMEs experiencing a significant growth in 2020 (+124,9%). The share of SME short-term loans in the total of SME loans increased by 72% between 2019 and 2020. However, the trend reversed in 2021, as small firms started repaying their short-term loans. As a consequence, the share of SME short-term loans in the total of SME loans declined to 9.3% in 2022 (from 19.1% in 2021).

France has detailed data on drawn loans and undrawn loans. An increase in the proportion of all drawn loans to all loans (both, i.e. the sum of drawn and undrawn) indicates a higher degree of utilisation and hence tighter lending conditions, as well as a worsening of credit availability as has been observed in 2008-09 (87.5%), and again at the end of 2011 (87%), though less severely. Since 2012, however, the credit conditions measured by these trends show a relative stabilisation until 2022 (87.7% on average and 88,5% in 2022).

Interest rates for both SMEs and large companies have been rising in recent years, marking a change from the downward trend started in 2009. Following a significant decrease in 2020, rates have been stabilizing at a higher level than before the COVID-19 crisis (1.9% in 2022 compared to 1.4% in 2019 for SMEs and 1.3% in 2022 compared to 0.9 % in 2019 for large companies). The interest rate gap between SMEs and large companies is returning to its pre-crisis level, stabilizing at 0.6% in 2022.

After the phase out of the government's initiative to ease access to financing in June 2022, securing financing has become more challenging for SMEs. After a consistent decline since 2012, the rejection rate has surpassed its 2012-2018 level (7%), reaching 8.9% in 2022. As of Q4 2022, approximately 83% of cash credit requests from SMEs were fully or nearly fully approved (compared to 87% in Q1 2022). Nonetheless, 96% of investment loan requests from SMEs were fully or nearly fully fulfilled, a figure that has remained constant since the beginning of 2017.

Invested amounts in private equity in French firms decreased by 9% in 2022 compared to 2021, reaching EUR 24.7 billion. However, 2021 was an exceptional year after the pandemic crisis (EUR 27.1 billion, +53% compared to 2020). In 2022, the number of firms financed via private equity increased to reach 2 681 (+14.5% compared to 2021).

Investments in venture capital (EUR 2.8 billion invested, +25% in amounts vs. 2021 after +23% in vs. 2020) and expansion capital (EUR 5.4 billion invested, +12% in number vs. 2021) are on the rise. The sub-total of venture capital, growth capital and expansion capital investments has grown 4.4 times in 10 years (EUR 2.4 billion in 2012, EUR 10.6 billion in 2022).

In 2022, the invested amounts by business angels decreased slightly by 4%. Nonetheless, in 2021, they experienced a remarkable growth of 41%. This was a sharp rebound after the COVID-19 crisis when angel investments declined by 16%. In 2022, digital, healthcare and consumer goods account for 73% of total investment of amounts invested.

Crowdfunding continues to grow in recent years. In 2022, it increased by 25% reaching EUR 2 355 million transacted. This type of finance demonstrates great resilience, and is becoming increasingly a common source of finance for firms. Since 2015, annual figures have grown 14 times to reach 7 billion in cumulative funding between 2015 and 2022 in France, across all transactional models (donation, loan, investment). In 2022, the funds raised helped finance 5 786 SMEs and 3 966 start-ups. Crowdfunding platforms benefit from a specific regulatory framework since 2014 which enables them to operate without a minimum amount of equity. However, their activity is regulated in order to guarantee transparency and investors protection.

Factoring volumes increased by 15.5% in 2022 to EUR 421.5 billion compared to 2021. The number of ongoing operations (+ 7.9%) also increased. The development of factoring has been important since the pandemic crisis in 2020, with an increase of 30% in factoring volumes compared to 2020.

Payment delays, defined as any payment made beyond the contractually agreed term, and measured in terms of late payment days including payments on time (delay = 0) reached 11.7 days at the end of 2022. This is a continuation of the downward trend in customer and supplier lead times observed in 2021, after the interruption in 2020 due to the health crisis. However, there is some heterogeneity in payment delays, which vary depending on the size of the firm or the sector it operates in. On average, the larger the firms, the longer the payment delay period: 74% of the SMEs pay their invoices in less than 60 days, while less than 40% of large enterprises pay without delay, which overall corresponds to an undue transfer of cash to the disadvantage of SMEs2.

In 2021, the number of SME bankruptcies reached a minimum of 27 500, thanks to the measures put in place by the Government to face the economic consequences of the pandemic crisis. In 2022, it increases by 50%, but it remains below the average number of bankruptcies between 2015 and 2019.

Non-performing loans (NPLs) reached 4.7% of all business loans during the financial crisis in 2009. Since then, NPLs have steadily decreased to 1.8% in 2022. In particular, the rate has been reduced by 1.5 points between 2018 and 2022, following the action plan to combat NPLs introduced by the European Commission in 2018 and implemented by Banque de France.

After the economic crisis experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, several measures had been implemented to facilitate SMEs access to finance and to boost business growth.

The sanitary crisis had a major impact on the financial situation of French companies. The strengthening of balance sheet positions was an important goal to preserve SMEs investment capacity and to reduce insolvency risk. Therefore, some measures were put in place:

  • Government guaranteed loans scheme was put in place in March 2020 to respond to cash needs for SMEs impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. More than 800 000 guaranteed loans have been distributed, for a total amount of EUR 143 billion.

  • SMEs that want to spread the repayment of their loan can benefit from an interest rate between 1% and 1.25%, depending on the number of years of repayment. Currently, banks committed to propose a maximal interest rate between 1% and 1.5% for loans repaid by 2022 or 2023 and between 2% and 2.5% for loans repaid by 2024 or 2026.

  • Solidarity funds have been provided to 2 million companies particularly hard hit by the crisis, for a total amount of EUR 41 billion.

  • Several sectoral recovery plans were launched for sectors that were significantly affected by the COVID-19 crisis (tourism, tech, aeronautic), including measures to strengthen SMEs financial situation.

Measures were taken to limit the impact of the increase in gas and electricity prices, for instance:

  • A "guichet" gas and electricity subsidy for all energy-intensive companies (including sole traders), i.e., those whose energy expenditure represents more than 3% of their sales, and whose energy bill has risen significantly in the space of a year.

  • An electricity shock absorber for SMEs, whereby the government offsets the difference between the price of electricity, excluding delivery and taxes, and EUR 180/MWh, on 50% of volumes consumed, up to a maximum of EUR 320/MWh.

The deployment of the France 2030 plan (EUR 54 billion) aims to make France a leading industrial nation in strategic sectors, to become a leader in key sectors in the global race for innovation. The choice of sectors supported is based on 4 main objectives: support the transition of long-established sectors of excellence (automotive, aeronautics, space), foster the emergence of tomorrow's strategic sectors (hydrogen, new renewable energy production technologies, etc., establish the conditions for France’s strategic autonomy and support emerging players with an ambitious long-term vision.

By May 2023, EUR 18.4 billion had already been paid out. SMEs have received 12% of this total, or EUR 2.1 billion.

Backed by the Banque de France, credit mediation, set up in November 2008, remains a central part of the financing landscape for French SMEs: companies encountering difficulties with their bank or their credit insurer can file a request online to start the mediation process. The mediation services assess the eligibility of the requests and contribute to finding a solution between the requesting firms and the financial institutions at local level, or if necessary, at a national level.

In 2022, credit mediation received 2,180 requests, representing a 45% drop compared with 2021, a logical development after the high level of activity during the Covid crisis. Over the course of 2022, the interventions of departmental mediators helped to consolidate 860 SMEs and preserve 10,232 jobs in the regions.


Association française des sociétés financières (ASF) (2022) L'activité des sociétés d'affacturage en 2022


Banque de France (2023) Enquête trimestrielle sur l’accès des entreprises au crédit 2023 T3


France Invest/Grant Thornton (2023) « Activité des acteurs français du capital investissement ».


Insee (2023) Les entreprises en France


Mazars (2023), Baromètre du crowdfunding en France 2022


Rapport de l’Observatoire des délais de paiement 2022 (2023)


La médiation du crédit moins sollicitée en 2022 (2022)



← 1. Insee, Les entreprises en France, Edition 2022.

← 2. Banque de France, Rapport de l’Observatoire des délais de paiement 2022

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