Part 1. Country snapshots

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there were 2,418,037 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Australia in 2019-20. SMEs account for 99.8% of all enterprises in Australia and employed more than 7.6 million people in 2018-19, which equates to around 66% of employment in the private sector.

The Australian economy fell by 0.3% in 2019-20 due to the COVID-19 lockdown recession, after 28 consecutive years of economic growth. The economy continues to recover, and had reversed 85% of the decline from its pre-COVID level of output by the end of 2020.

Interest rates are historically low for both SMEs and large businesses. SME interest rates in Australia have gradually declined from 8.6% in 2007 to 3.4% in 2020. The interest rate spread between SME loans and large enterprise loans increased from 71 basis points in 2007 to 170 basis points in 2008, and remained high at 185 basis points in 2017. However, the interest rate spread has declined somewhat to 177 basis points in 2020.

New lending to SMEs declined sharply from AUD 185.2 billion in 2019 to AUD 80 billion in 2020, in the wake of COVID-19. In 2020, the share of SME outstanding loans stood at 42.68% of total outstanding business loans.

The total amount of venture capital invested by registered Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships (ESVCLPs) and Venture Capital Limited Partnerships (VCLPs) increased in 2017-18 by 32.96%, totalling AUD 1.3 billion, decreased in 2018-19 by 10.56% to AUD 1.1 billion, before rising to a high of AUD 1.6 billion in 2019-20, an increase of 43.28%. Leasing and hire purchase volumes dropped from AUD 9,245 million in 2007 to a low of AUD 6,549 million in 2010. Leasing and hire purchase volumes have recovered since, rising to AUD 10,530 million in 2020, an increase of about 5% over the previous year.

The number of bankruptcies per 10,000 businesses increased from 45 in 2007 to 50 in 2010. It since reached a ten-year low of 29 in 2019, before falling even further to 19 in 2020 in response to COVID-19 related policies. In March 2020, the Australian Government announced a series of temporary changes to bankruptcy law to protect otherwise viable businesses from bankruptcy. These included a new formal debt restructuring process, and a simplified liquidation pathway; with the new processes available to incorporated businesses with liabilities of less than AUD 1 million.

The Australian Government has a comprehensive SME agenda aimed at promoting growth, employment and opportunities across the economy. Its policies for promoting SMEs focus on improving the operating environment for businesses, increasing incentives for investment, and enhancing rewards and opportunities for private endeavour. Policies aiming to increase long-term opportunities for SMEs include innovative finance and crowd-sourced equity funding; competition and consumer policies; taxation and business incentives; export financing; and small business assistance.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

As in many EU countries, SMEs contribute substantially to Austria’s economy. In 2019, 99.7% of all firms were SMEs employing approximately 66.8% of the labour force.

The capital structure of SMEs in Austria is traditionally biased towards debt financing, whereas limitations on access to risk-finance are still apparent. Bank lending is therefore an important factor affecting the availability of external financing for SMEs. However, access to finance is generally not a major concern for Austrian SMEs. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely affected the economic environment, only 8% (compared to 10% of European SMEs) stated in 2020 that access to finance is one of their main concerns.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Austria showed an increase in medium- and long-term loans, as government guarantees typically covered loans with medium-term maturities and up to EUR 1 million. This reflected a shift in the financing needs of businesses, since loans were taken to bridge liquidity shortages and build up liquidity buffers. However, loan growth differed across industries depending on how much they were affected by the pandemic. Overall, the share of new SME loans (i.e. up to EUR 1 million) increased by more than 3 percentage-points to 15.3%.

To mitigate the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Austrian as well as European governments provided unprecedented (fiscal) stimulus programs to non-financial corporations including SMEs following the modified EU “Temporary Framework to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak”. The enlargement of loan guarantee programmes offering bridge-financing and special lending conditions resulted in a sharp decline of the spread between SME loans (i.e. loans with a volume of up to EUR 1 million) and loans to large firms down to 0.23%. In comparison, this spread has been rather stable over the last years reaching 44 basis points (0.44%) on average until 2019.

In Austria, limitations on access to risk-finance (e.g. Venture Capital) are still apparent and have always been considered to be a particular weakness of the Austrian innovation system. Official data reported by Invest Europe show no clear trend over time, with frequent ups and downs.

Bankruptcies (per 1 000 enterprises) fell sharply by -40.7% in 2020 compared to 2019, reaching the number of 3 106. This development can be explained by a wide range of fiscal and other crisis response measures set up by the Austrian Federal Government to help affected companies through the crisis quickly and accurately. For example, the obligation to declare insolvency has been temporarily suspended. For a sustainable recovery after a recession, it is essential to ensure structural change, improve business dynamics and strengthen firms’ equity ratios. A catch-up effect and the realization of an insolvency backlog have to be considered once the policy measures end or are phased out.

In 2020, initiatives and supporting measures of the Austrian Government concentrated primarily on tackling the economic and financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and on helping affected companies through the crisis quickly and accurately. In order to mitigate the economic disadvantages, the financial aids ensure the liquidity of companies and focus on:

  • Mitigating revenues losses stemming from the crisis: e.g. non-repayable grants to cover fixed costs and revenue losses.

  • Measures facilitating economic recovery -- e.g. Loan guarantees for bridge-financing loans.

  • Stimulating labour market: e.g. Corona short-time work.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

In 2018, SMEs dominated the business enterprise landscape in Belgium, accounting for 99.85% of all firms.

The outstanding stock of SME loans expanded by 2% in 2020, 3.6 percentage points down from its growth rate of the previous year. SME interest rates continued to decrease and averaged 1.55% in 2020. The interest rate spread between loans charged to large enterprises and loans charged to SMEs was 15 basis points in 2020.

Survey data illustrates that lending conditions eased between 2013 and 2015 and remained relatively stable until the end of 2018. A deterioration of credit conditions has been reported since the fourth quarter of 2018, through the end of 2020.

After having expanded moderately in 2019 (+5.17%), leasing volumes receded by 8.14% in 2020. Overall, factoring continues to be widely used by Belgian companies. However, this source of financing stands out in 2020 and shows a downward trend for the first time since 2007, decreasing by 3.66% during the year. Factoring has an average growth rate of 6.85 over the period 2015-2020 and contributed to almost 18% of GDP in 2020, as opposed to only 6.3% of GDP in 2008.

Venture and growth capital investments continue to show considerable variations due to the small number of deals completed every year. Total venture and growth capital investments were stable in 2020, after having increased by 44% in 2019.

Average payment delays for business to business transactions decreased steadily during the last ten years, dropping from a 17-day average in 2009 to a 3-day average in 2020.

The number of registered failures dropped to 7 203 (-32%) in 2020. This figure is much lower than usual and can be explained by the moratorium on bankruptcies introduced in Belgium in the context of the Covid-19 crisis.

Policy initiatives to ease SMEs’ access to finance are taken both at the federal and regional levels. Policy measures in 2020 were primarily aimed at protecting healthy businesses in the context of the covid-19 crisis. In the framework of the Flemish recovery plan, PMV (the Flemish investment body) is reinforcing its investments in companies through loans, capital and guarantees. The Brussels-Capital Region is offering companies a low-interest loan to support all sectors affected by the crisis. With the Covid-19 crisis and the partial or full closure of a number of businesses, the Walloon Government has decided from March 2020 to support SMEs and self-employed in sectors affected by the crisis through a lump sum compensation. An additional compensation based on the loss of turnover has been introduced since September 2020.

At the federal level, the government introduced a debt moratorium on corporate loans and activated a EUR 50 billion new guarantee for all new loans until 31 December 2020. A second guarantee scheme, which only applies to SMEs for loans taken before end-June 2021, was also activated.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

Micro and small enterprises (MSEs) form an essential part of the Brazilian economy, accounting for 98.5% of all legally constituted companies (11.5 million), for 27% of GDP, and for 41% of the total payroll.

The reference interest rate of Banco Central do Brasil (Special Clearance and Escrow System - SELIC) has been gradually declining, from 14.15% per annum in December 2015 to 6.4% in December 2018. The previous period of rate hike (from 7.25% in March 2013 to 14.25% in September 2016) led to high interest rates on loans for large corporate borrowers (14.8%) and SMEs (30.6%), leading to a shrinking demand for new SME loans. Interest rates have increased more for micro-enterprises and SMEs than for large businesses. However, this trend was reversed when the Central Bank decreased its rate at the end of 2016, thus decreasing interest rates for SMEs. In 2020 the Central Bank decided to lower the SELIC rate from 4.25% in February and 3.75% in March to 2.0% in August). In March 2021 the SELIC rate was increased to 2.75% p.a., achieving 3.50% in May 2021.

The stock of SME loans fell in 2015 and new lending to SMEs declined in 2014 and 2015. Both observations are in contrast with lending to large businesses, where the outstanding stock of loans, as well as new lending was up in 2014 and 2015. A sharp rise was observed in 2020 due to measures adopted in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic (see more under Government policy response).

Since 2008, large companies have received a larger share of business loans than SMEs. The government has taken on a more active role in this area, often with the aim to provide financial services to small businesses excluded from traditional financial institutions. Developments include a micro-credit programme, a quota to use 2% of demand deposits of the National Financial System to finance loans to low-income individuals and micro entrepreneurs, and a strong increase in the number of agencies where financial services are provided.

In the area of equity finance, the regulatory framework for angel investors was revised in 2016 and further adjusted in 2017, removing some long-standing barriers for investors in SME markets, in particular by offering more legal protection in the case of company closures, more flexibility in the type of investment and more information sharing between recipients and investors. In addition, new regulations concerning investment-based crowdfunding and Fintech were introduced in 2017 and 2018.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

In 2020, Canadian small businesses (1-99 employees) constituted 98.0% of all businesses and employed 7.7 million individuals, or 67.7% of the private sector labour force.

Supply-side survey data show that outstanding debt held by all businesses increased in 2020 to CAD 1,007 billion. Lending to small businesses increased to CAD 117.9 billion. As a result, small businesses’ share of total outstanding business loans was 11.7%.

Small business credit conditions have remained relatively stable since 2011. The average interest rate charged to small businesses in 2019 decreased to 5.3%, with an average business prime rate of 3.6%. The business risk premium stood at 1.7%, the lowest level since the 2009 recession reflecting an easing in access to financing for small businesses in Canada.

Bank of Canada survey results indicate that lenders reported that overall business lending conditions eased towards the end of the second half of 2020. Borrowers also reported an easing of credit conditions during the same period.

In 2020, the small business 90-day loan delinquency rate reached 0.78%, its highest level since 2010.

Total venture capital (VC) investment levels in Canada reached a peak of CAD 6.1 billion in 2019 followed by a decline to CAD 4.1 billion in 2020. These are the highest levels of VC investment recorded in Canada since 2001.

In 2020-21, the Government of Canada continued its commitment to support entrepreneurship and the growth of SMEs. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), a crown corporation with the mandate to support Canadian entrepreneurship had CAD 36.5 billion in financing and investments, as of 31 March 2020, committed to 62 000 clients operating across Canada. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BDC delivered the Business Credit Availability Program and the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program on behalf of the Government. Through these programmes, Canadian businesses could access term loans of up to CAD 60 million for operational cash flow requirements. Additionally, BDC extended new working capital loans, expanded its online financing platform, and launched the BDC Venture Capital Bridge Financing Program to support existing clients and increase the availability of capital in the market.

The Government of Canada has also invested CAD 371 million through the original Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI) to increase late-stage venture capital available to Canadian entrepreneurs. Selected fund managers under the original VCCI will inject more than CAD 1.8 billion over the coming years into the innovation capital market by leveraging funds from the public sector and private sector. Building on this momentum, the Government introduced in Budget 2021 that it has made available up to CAD 450 million through a renewed VCCI to support future venture capital investments.

The Government of Canada has established a number of programmes to provide support targeted to entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups. The Government has made total investments of nearly CAD 6 billion in the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES); of up to CAD 272.8 million in the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP); and of CAD 58.1 million for Futurpreneur, a program to support youth entrepreneurs.

To help simplify and streamline the Government’s support programmes and to help equity-deserving entrepreneurs access funding and capital, mentorship, financial planning services, and business training, the Government will launch the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development Program (SBED), investing CAD101.4 million over 5 years in a tool which will facilitate continued support of small businesses and entrepreneurs across Canada.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

2020 was marked by coronavirus outbreak which impacted the economy and led to an unprecedented decrease of activity.

Despite advances in Chile’s economic recovery, GDP closed 2020 with an annual decline of 5.8%, but the growth projection for 2021 is raised to a range between 6.0% and 7.0%, while for 2022 it remains between 3.0% and 4.0%.

Since March 2020, Chile has developed a robust economic relief plan through the “Emergency Economic Plan”, which has 49 economic and social measures to support different people and firms. This Emergency Economic Plan, along with the 2020 “Step by Step Plan, Chile recovers”, seeks to gradually reactivate the economic activity through measures that encourage investment, infrastructure development, in addition to a special plan to simplify bureaucratic procedures, in order to promote and accelerate innovation and investment.

The foregoing, with a marked focus on the recovery of employment and the reactivation of micro, small and medium enterprises through tax measures, subsidy programs, financing and capacity development programs. In total, these plans mobilised resources that represent 9.7% of GDP.

According to the Central Bank, the supply of credit to SMEs is less restrictive and, with respect to the segment of large companies, there are no significant changes. However, the SME share of outstanding loans reached 21.4%, a historical peak, and the interest rate spread between large firms and SMEs fell from 4.0% in 2019 to 2.3% in 2020.

2020 marked an important step forward in terms of domestic financial schemes, presenting historic capital injections, strongly expanding the Small Business Guarantee Fund (or “FOGAPE” for short) by USD 3 billion, which aimed at expanding the financing coverage. Additionally, this fund will help to provide financing for enterprises with annual sales of up to USD 36 million, therefore increasing the current threshold which stands at around USD 12 million.

In terms of the guarantees granted by the Production Development Corporation (CORFO), such as COBEX, Pro Inversión and FOGAIN, there have been more than 62 000 guarantee operations, amounting to more than USD 2 billion.

In regard to non-bank finance, there have been actions undertaken to reduce the funding gap faced by micro-enterprises. In this sense, the “MSME Credit”, operated by CORFO, received a capital injection of USD 178 million and by the end of 2020 there were more than 54 000 credit operation via this scheme, amounting to USD 68 million.

With respect to venture capital funds, CORFO and Start-Up Chile’s programmes are the main instruments of SME capital financing, although other private and public initiatives have also developed. After two years of sustained increase in 2018 and 2019, 2020 marked a drop of 12% in venture capital investments, reaching an investment of CLP 54.9 in 2019 and CLP 48.3 in 2020.

In 2020, the Superintendence of Insolvency and Re-entrepreneurship (SUPERIR) implemented the Economic Insolvency Advisory program (AEI). This is a procedure by which an advisor is made available to smaller companies, free of charge, in order to propose improvement actions that allow them to overcome the state of insolvency, such as recovery agreements, search for new sources of financing, among others. During the period that the advisory lasts, the company has financial protection that suspends possible legal actions for a period of 90 days. The process was carried out first through the relocation of funds from Superir to Sercotec during 2020, with the objective of financing 498 AEI. By the end of 2020, a total of 321 AEI had been initiated.

Finally, the Commission for the Financial Market (CMF) is leading the proposal for a Fintech bill for the stock market. The Commission's preliminary draft seeks, among others, to provide a legal and regulatory framework for collective financing platforms and other Fintech activities related to the stock market. The preliminary draft proposal also incorporates an update of part of the current security market legislation in order to adapt it and preserve regulatory coherence between the new Fintech players and the players that operate today under the regulation and supervision of the CMF.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

Access to finance is one of the main conditions for the growth of micro, small and medium-sized companies. Financing allows them to make investments to increase their productivity, competitiveness, and consolidation in the market. However, when there are difficulties in accessing sources of formal financing, it is more difficult for MSMEs to make a choice between investing to modernise their operations and innovate, or face crisis situations.

During 2020, and as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified this situation got worse given difficulties in the development of markets and the impact of the pandemic on Colombian businesses (99% of which are micro, small and medium-sized companies). As a result of the pandemic, the Colombian government implemented lockdowns that led to a widespread decline in economic activity in most sectors.

Survey results from “Gran Encuesta Pyme - GEP 2020-1” for the first semester of 2020 from the National Association of Financial Institutions show a significant deterioration in entrepreneurs’ perception about the evolution of their businesses and consumer demand during the first half of the year. This was a radical change from the recovery trend experienced in the pre-crisis years. The unfavorable perception is explained by the shock caused by Covid-19 and the subsequent measures implemented to contain it, with severe negative impacts on business activity and job creation.

Although the survey “Gran Encuesta Pyme - GEP 2020-1” is as comprehensive as possible (the sample size of 1 957 companies with coverage in 18 of the 32 departments in which the country is politically divided), the informal sector is difficult to capture. Despite the fact that there are few sources for the estimates of the informal sector, from the Household Survey1 it is possible to affirm that informality constitutes about 60% of companies.

Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, SMEs undertook actions to continue their operations and business obligations. Some of these actions were: (i) use of company’s cash; (ii) renegotiation of contracts with suppliers; (iii) renegotiation of debts; (iv) negotiation with employees to advance vacation periods; and (v) negotiation of layoffs with employees.

Some of the economic measures implemented for SMEs by the financial system and the government were: longer grace periods and terms of existing credits; providing access to payroll and/or employee benefits subsidies; tax benefits from national or territorial entities. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on production levels and the economy as a whole, required the implementation of financial measures to support companies from the National Government. This support focused on rediscounting credit lines, through Bancóldex development bank, and the expansion of guarantee lines so that entrepreneurs who did not have guarantees or collateral could make credit applications backed by the National Guarantee Fund. The application of these measures to benefit business owners influenced the volume of credit operations requested. Thus, in the industrial sector, the percentage of credit applications to the formal financial system increased to 36% during the first half of 2020, in the commercial sector it increased by 38% and in the service sector it increased by 32%, compared to the figures presented in 2019.

However, despite the growth in the volume of credit operations requested, the approvals of these requests showed a decrease in the three macro sectors of the economy. In the industry sector, the approval rate fell from 89% registered in 2019 to 72% in 2020; in the commercial sector it declined from 91% in 2019 to 71% in 2020; and in the service sector it fell from 84% in 2019 to 68% in 2020, caused by the greater perception of risk on the part of the financial system. In addition, for the cut-off of the information presented (first semester of 2021), the support that the government established to boost the supply of credit had not yet come into operation.

Regarding the use of credit, most SMEs in the three sectors used it to finance working capital. The second most frequent use of debt was the consolidation of liabilities, and the third was the purchase or rental of machinery, particularly in companies from the industry sector.

The percentage of SMEs that accessed formal credit to satisfy their financing requirements declined from 42% in 2019 to 24% in 2020. The COVID-19 crisis intensified the already low participation of alternative sources (such as leasing or factoring) in the financing of SMEs.

In 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic, Colombia had the largest drop in production. In the second quarter of 2020, Colombia's GDP fell 15.8% compared to the same period in 2019. Likewise, for the month of April there was a drop in employment of 5.4 million people, which implies a reduction of employment of 24.5% compared to the same period in 2019 according to the National Association of Financial Institutions.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on production levels and the economy as a whole required the implementation of financial measures to support companies from the National Government. This support focused on rediscounting credit lines, through Bancóldex development bank, and the expansion of guarantee lines so that entrepreneurs who did not have guarantees or collateral could make credit applications backed by the National Guarantee Fund.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

The approach of SMEs to the financing of their business activities can be assessed as favorable for established companies due to high bank liquidity. Banking and non-banking institutions, private individuals, venture capital funds offer a wide portfolio of financial products. Established entrepreneurs do not have a problem with access to bank loans, leasing and factoring. Alternative sources of financing include venture capital, angel investments, bond issuance, crowdfunding and state support. However, the Czech Republic is characterised by a weaker investment environment, which undermines the establishment of new companies and the financing of new SME projects. While crowdfunding has become a popular tool for obtaining the necessary financial resources, capital financing is underdeveloped compared to similarly sized EU economies. There is a lack of willingness to invest in the early stages of business development (pre-seed, seed, start-up and later stage venture). The market for angel investments is barely visible, fragmented. However, the situation for innovators in the idea phase or start-ups is more complicated. Investments in these entities appear to be high risk for investors and banks, mainly due to the absence of relevant corporate history, lack of collateral or lack of information to assess their credit risk or valuation of their intangible assets.

SMEs are very vulnerable, especially in terms of financing, and have a higher perception of financial risk due to more frequent rejections of loan applications. The situation in this area has significantly improved over the last few years. The 2019 EC survey states that the share of SMEs in the Czech Republic, which cite the access to finance as the most significant problem, decreased from 12% in 2011 to 8% in 2019, to increase again to 10% in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In terms of access to common methods of financing, the Czech Republic is above average in several indicators showing the quality of SMEs' access to finance. The most important direct sources of external financing for SMEs are credit lines or overdrafts (52%), bank loans (43%) and leasing (50%). So far, capital financing is relevant for only 1% of companies. In terms of the use of financing, between 2019 and 2020, investment in the development of new products or services remained almost constant (around 25%). Most sources of finance are intended to finance either fixed investments or inventories and working capital.

In 2020, there were roughly 1.18 million active enterprises in the Czech Republic. 99.85% of these firms were SMEs with less than 250 employees each. Micro-firms dominated the business landscape, comprising 96.4% of all SMEs in 2020. The total number of SME employees decreased by 42.8 thousand in 2020 compared to 2019, i.e. by 1.8% to a total of 2.35 million employees. Given the situation caused by the coronavirus epidemic, this decrease can be considered moderate.

Interest rates for SMEs decreased by 14.1% in 2020 compared to 2019. This decrease does not reach the level of the minimum rates from 2016 and 2017. The interest rate spread between SMEs and large firms increased by 0.43% to 1.13%. The recent development in interest rates was probably also due to the response by the Central National Bank to the COVID-19 crisis, by proposing a banking package containing a proposal to amend the Capital Requirements Regulation (CRR-COVID). The measures also include the application of a factor supporting SMEs.

Venture capital investments reached their lowest level in 2016. Since then, they gradually increased until 2019, when VC investments reached EUR 24.3 million and re-investments jumped to EUR 125.5 million. According to preliminary data, VC investments returned to pre-2019 levels in 2020. They reached EUR 14.2 million in VC, and reinvestments fell even more sharply, from EUR 125.5 million in 2019 to EUR 25.0 million in 2020.

Government support for SMEs and entrepreneurs primarily consists of measures in the areas of developmental and operational financing, export support, support of the energy sector, development of entrepreneurial skills and financial literacy of entrepreneurs, technical education and research, and development and innovation.

The SMEs Support Strategy in the Czech Republic for the period 2021-2027 (SME 2021+) aims to increase the productivity and competitiveness of SMEs, and at the same time to strengthen their international position, inter alia in the field of research and innovation or the use of advanced technologies and skills. The Strategy represents the key strategic document for the preparation of the European Union (EU) cohesion policies over the 2021–27 programming period in the area of enterprise development. This includes the Operational Programme Technologies and Applications for Competitiveness (OPTAC).

SME 2021+ includes several tools, such as government loan guarantees (National Development Bank – former Czech-Moravian Guarantee and Development Bank), financing and insuring schemes for exporting SMEs (Czech Export Bank and Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation) and innovative businesses (INOSTART programme), as well as a programme to draw financial resources from the EU Structural Funds (Operational Programme Technologies and Applications for Competitiveness) which provides support to SMEs through grants, preferential loans and guarantees.

As of 21 April 2020, the Ministry of Industry and Trade had announced three calls for the COVID programme based on credit and guarantee instruments. Due to the emergence of COVID-19 and related preventive measures, the COVID II program was launched in the spring 2020 as part of the EXPANSION-guarantee program. Another program that tackles the effects of the pandemic is the COVID III program, designed for SMEs and large enterprises. Other loan programs in 2020 were the ENERG program and the ENERGY SAVINGS program. The goal of both programs is to reduce energy consumption

Within the COVID I program, the volume of loans provided was CZK 928 million. In the COVID II - guarantees program, the volume of guaranteed loans was CZK 14.6 billion. In the COVID Prague guarantees program, the volume of guaranteed loans was CZK 1.6 billion. COVID III program is intended for companies with up to 500 employees, without distinction of SMEs; the volume of guaranteed loans was CZK 18.1 billion.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

In 2019, not counting non-employer enterprises, SMEs accounted for 98.7% of all enterprises and 39.1% of all full-time employees in Denmark.

Lending to SMEs from financial institutions declined from DKK 68 billion to 56 billion between 2019 and 2020. The 2020 level was, however, higher than in the years 2016-2018. The share of new SME lending compared to total new lending was 11.03% in 2020, slightly below the average of 11.68% in the period 2010-2020.

Survey data illustrates that credit conditions concerning corporate lending from banks to SMEs in Denmark almost consistently tightened between 2018 and 2021, after having relaxed between 2014 and 2018. In addition, the demand for new loans by new SME customers increased substantially between the first quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, while the demand by existing SME customers was stable.

Interest rates for SMEs as well as for large firms have steadily declined since 2008, but the interest rates for SMEs increased slightly in 2020, from 1.85% to 1.93%, resulting in a widening interest rate spread. However, with the exception of 2019, the 2020 interest rate spread of 0.90% is the lowest since 2007.

Venture and growth capital financing from Danish private equity firms decreased in 2019 and 2020, after reaching a record high of EUR 699 million in 2018. However, particularly the level of venture investments remained high in historical comparison despite the effects of COVID-19 in 2020.

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the average payment delays increased dramatically to 20 days in 2020, after having been at an all-time low of 2 days in 2017 and 3 days in 2018 and 2019. However, as a result of the extensive government support measures, the number of bankruptcies among SMEs decreased from 2 153 in 2019 to 1 841 in 2020.

The COVID-19 support measures have, among other things, included loan and guarantee schemes targeting SMEs. The loan schemes have allowed Vækstfonden (The Danish Growth Fund) to match the investments of professional investors with a loan of three times the amount of the investment. The guarantee schemes have allowed Vækstfonden and EKF (Denmark's Export Credit Agency) to cover 90% of the risk on new loans from commercial banks to SMEs.

In 2020, government loan guarantees increased from DKK 512 million to 1 948 million, and government guaranteed loans increased from DKK 1 246 million to 2 934 million.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

In 2019, Estonian SMEs employed 79% of the workforce and accounted for 79.5% of total value added. 91.9% of all firms were micro-enterprises, i.e. firms with less than 10 employees, employing 33% of the workforce and accounting for 29.2% of total value added in 2019.

Outstanding business loans to SMEs have been decreasing for 3 consecutive years. Even during the COVID-19 crisis, SME outstanding loans declined despite the provision of cheap guarantees and direct loans from the government. This can be explained by the increase in SME interest rates in 2020, as well as the provision of public support through non-debt channels such as employment support and the deferral of taxes and instalments. Furthermore, under the Estonian corporate income tax system all reinvested profits are tax-free. Thus, companies have a strong incentive to re-invest their profits, which may be an explanation for the low demand for loans. Loans under EUR 1 million, which are used as a proxy to describe SME loans, may have become unreliable to depict SME activities. This is because the high inflation rates in recent years may have pushed SMEs to contract larger loans.

The base interest rate on SME loans (up to EUR 1 million) decreased steadily from 4% in 2012 to slightly below 3% in 2016. Since then, interest rates have started increasing again, reaching 3.28% in 2018 and 4.08% in 2020. For larger loans, the interest rate also moved upward to 2.77%. In 2020, the interest rate spread reached a high for the last decade at 1.31%.

Venture and growth capital has been growing steadily in recent years. Estonia has a well-developed start-up community that has good potential for raising venture capital. 2020 was a record year, with companies raising EUR 453 million, a 72% year-on-year growth.

Leasing and hire purchases turnover declined sharply during the COVID-19 crisis, by about one-quarter on a year-on-year basis, due to the general slowdown of economic activity and investment decisions being postponed.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

The Finnish economy had seen five years of continuous growth before the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty in the global economy resulted in a recession in Finland as GDP declined 2.9% in 2020. The Finnish Government supported companies, investments and the availability of financing during the pandemic.

About 99.1% of all employer firms are SMEs in Finland (79 435 companies), employing 57% of the labour force. The SME share in employment goes up to 64% if non-employers are also included in the count. The vast majority of SMEs (76.3%) are micro-enterprises with less than 10 employees. The decline in the number of employer firms has continued in recent years, while the number of the self-employed has increased.

The volume of new lending to SMEs increased in 2020, almost approaching its pre-financial crisis (2008) level. New business lending to SMEs grew by 11.2% in 2020 in comparison to the previous year. Total new lending to all enterprises increased 14.8%. SMEs’ strong demand for loans was supported by COVID-19 economic measures to prevent bankruptcies, because restrictions on mobility and business activity affected demand in Finland in 2020.

The average interest rate on small loans of up to EUR 1 million, which is used as proxy for the interest rate on loans to SMEs, decreased between 2011 and 2020. The average interest rate was 2.0% in 2020. The average interest rate charged on loans over EUR 1 million has remained at around 1.3% for two consecutive years. The credit spread between small and large business loans indicates a loosening of credit terms for SMEs compared to large enterprises. The interest rate spread was 0.69% in 2020, while it was 0.97% in 2018.

According to the Finnish Venture Capital Association (FVCA), a record-high figure of EUR 951 million was invested in start-ups and early-stage growth companies in Finland in 2020. The growth is seen as a continuation of long-term efforts which have led to increasingly high quality start-ups and stronger VC industry in Finland. Of the total sum, foreign investments accounted for EUR 543 million. Finnish Venture Capital (VC) funds invested EUR 223 million and business angels invested EUR 36 million. Finland had the most Venture Capital investments per GDP in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Average payment delays surged to 17 days in 2020. There was a significant increase in payment delays following the COVID-19 pandemic and during the economic downturn in Finland.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Business Finland and the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) distributed coronavirus subsidies to companies (including SMEs) for development activities. With these subsidies, companies were able to explore their development needs and implement their development projects. For example, companies have used the support for digitalisation.

In addition, the government also provided liquidity support to businesses. The business cost support is intended for firms whose turnover has fallen significantly (-30%) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The third application round for business cost support took place from 27 April to 23 June 2021, which is used to cover firm’s fixed costs and wages. The aim of the cost support is to help businesses to withstand the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to reduce the number of bankruptcies. SMEs can receive support even if they were in difficulties2 before January 2020. However, they are granted support if the company is not in bankruptcy or reorganization proceedings at the time the support is granted and has not received rescue or restructuring aid. The fourth application round for business cost support took place from 17 August to 30 September 2021.

The number of bankruptcies decreased markedly by 19% in 2020 from the previous year. A part of the decline is explained by temporary amendment of the bankruptcy law (May 1st 2020), which prevented bankruptcies of those enterprises whose financial difficulties would most likely be temporary due the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

France has approximately 3.9 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for 99.9% of the total business population.

Outstanding SME loans increased by more than 27.24% between 2019 and 2020, reaching EUR 336 440 million in 2020 as a result of government support measures. Since 2014, the interest rate spread has decreased from 0.8% to 0.3%. Furthermore, SMEs’ access to bank lending remained high in 2020: around 86% of SME requests for cash credits were fully or almost fully granted and 96% of SME requests for investment loans were fully or almost fully served, a figure which has remained stable since the beginning of 2017. The rejection rate has continued to decline (2.38% in 2020).

Private equity investments in French firms decreased in 2020 to EUR 17.8 billion, a drop of 8% compared to 2019. 2 027 firms were financed via venture capital funds in 2020. The number of financing operations by business angels decreased by 20% in 2020 (336 versus 422 in 2019).

Funds raised by crowdfunding platforms soared in the 2018-2020 period, from EUR 402 million to EUR 1 020 million. In 2020, funds raised through crowdfunding financed 13 796 SMEs.

Factoring volumes decreased by 7.5% in 2020 to EUR 323.5 billion, after increasing continuously since 2009. This fall can be linked to the decline in NFCs’ (non-financial corporations) turnover by 7.8% in 2020 compared to 2019, together with some sectoral aspects. Factoring remains the preferred method of short-term financing in the car industry and since this sector was particularly hit by the pandemic, the recession in this industry caused part of the fall in factoring volumes.

Payment delays reached 12.8 days in 2020, the highest since 2015. The increase started in 2020Q2 and a high level of uncertainty led to a sharp increase in Q3, up to 14.4 days, before receding rapidly in Q4. However, this fall was not enough to compensate for the rise of the previous quarters.

The number of SME bankruptcies collapsed by 38% in 2020, at around 31 000, thanks to the measures implemented by the Government to face the economic consequences of the pandemic.

In terms of government SME financing policies, a government loan guarantee scheme was put in place to respond to the cash needs of SMEs impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The state guarantee covers 90% of the loan for all SMEs. In May 2021, 673 139 firms had obtained government-guaranteed loans, for a total amount of EUR 136.8 billion. The rejection rate was only 2.9%.

Moreover, several measures were put in place by the French government to strengthen firms’ balance sheets in the context of economic downturn in 2020. First, the Economic and Social Development Fund was provided with EUR 1 billion and equity loans were created to support firms with less than 49 employees impacted by the pandemic. The French Government support for SMEs financing also took the form of a guarantee provided to investors that provide equity loans or bonds. Furthermore, a recovery label was created in order to mobilise the savings of the French.

Credit mediation continued to assist French enterprises via an online platform. The number of requests has skyrocketed in comparison with previous years, mostly due to the liquidity problems caused by the global health crisis. In 2020, credit mediation benefited 6 332 SMEs and unlocked a total of EUR 2.98 billion of credit.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

As of 2020, 99.6% of active enterprises in Georgia were SMEs3, which accounted for 59.3% of business sector employment, 40.8% of business sector turnover and 58.0% (GEL 25.2 million) of output in the business sector (GEL 43.5 million).

In recent years, credit to SMEs rose significantly, amounting to a staggering 407.5% increase from GEL 1 400 million in 2010 to GEL 7 105 million in 2020.4 Throughout this period, total business loans grew by more than 298.9%, and the proportion of SME loans as a percentage of total business loans grew from 33.8% to 43%. During 2019-2020, real growth of SME loans amounted to 16.9%, while total business loans grew by 15.9%.

The average interest rate charged to SMEs in Georgia is high by OECD standards, but it has significantly declined over the last decade, from 17.5% in 2010 to 9.3% in 2020. Despite the pandemic-related challenges, due to the increasing efforts to support access to finance for SMEs. Between 2019 and 2020 the interest rate charged to SMEs declined by 0.6 percentage points. As for the interest rate spread between large enterprises and SMEs, it declined to 0.9% in 2020 from 1.2% in 2019 and 2.6% in 2010.

Although precise data on the availability and use of alternative financial instruments is lacking, available evidence strongly suggests that Georgian SMEs are very dependent on the banking sector for meeting their financing needs and that non-bank instruments still play a very marginal role. However, the rapid growth of micro-financing organisations should not be neglected.

According to the World Bank Group's Doing Business indicator, Georgia ranked 7th in 2020 “ease of doing business”. The Ease of Doing Business 2020 report shows that Georgia has increased public access to information and thus improved in building quality control in 2018/2019. Currently, the country has the lowest number of procedures required to start a business and register a property. Also, in getting credit indicator Georgia ranked 15th in Doing Business 2020.

Georgia facilitated the enforcement of contracts by introducing random and automatic assignment of cases to judges across courts. Most notably, the country improved its insolvency framework by making insolvency proceedings more accessible for debtors and creditors, improving provisions on the treatment of contracts during insolvency, and granting creditors greater participation in important decisions during the proceedings. According to the information from the Public Registry Agency, after a 35.95% growth in the number of liquidation procedures in 2019, the indicator saw a 29.33% decrease in 2020, reaching 147 cases total.

In 2020, due to Covid-19 global pandemic, the overall volume of non-performing SME loans exceeded GEL 974 million (143% increase from 2019), the highest level since 2010, and the share of non-performing SMEs loans is now at 9.8% (4.8% increase from the last year). Although, it needs to be noted, that in 2020 the total volume of non-performing loans increased by 126% (from 4.93% in 2019 to 9.75% in 2020) out of which, the contribution of SMEs non-performing loans was 40.6 percentage points, and other loans contribution was 85.9 percentage points. The lowest level of SME share of non-performing loans was in 2014 when it reached 4.2%.

The government of Georgia has prioritised SME development as the main source of private sector growth, job creation and innovation. For instance, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy is one of the successful reforms the Georgian Government has conducted.. Through the budgetary support, in 2014, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia established two sister agencies, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) and Enterprise Georgia, with the main objective of promoting SME development and strengthening SME competitiveness. Both agencies provide financial support to SMEs, as well as a broader range of services that includes access to special infrastructure, mentoring, trainings and various advisory services. In addition to the establishment of these two agencies, the government of Georgia has introduced several private sector development programmes, which include financial and technical assistance components to support SMEs at different stages of development.

The Covid-19 pandemic has delivered the largest economic shock the world economy has witnessed in decades. Response measures such as lockdowns and travel restrictions, have negatively affected consumption, investments, financial and commodity markets, global trade and tourism.

Like the rest of the world, Georgia’s positive economic trajectory has also been interrupted. In 2020, the economy shrank by 6.8%. In 2021 strong economic recovery was observed in Georgian economy, in January-September economic growth amounted to 11.0 percent. The preliminary results of economic activity in 2021 are more positive than previously forecasted and Government of Georgia expects 10% economic growth in 2021. According to IMF projections, Georgia is projected to have the fastest economic recovery in the medium term among regional peers and European countries. Consequently, in 2021-2026 average annual growth is projected at 5.8% supported by infrastructure spending and sustained structural reforms to increase productivity and enhance private sector-led growth.

The Government’s Anti-Crisis Economic Plan consisted of various emergency measures to support the economy and mitigate the effects of the pandemic. These measures included income tax payment deferrals, automatic VAT refund mechanism, granting businesses opportunity to restructure loans, providing commercial banks with long-term resources to solve liquidity problem, reshaping existing or developing new government programmes to support individual economic sectors based on their needs, and specific support measures in tourism, agriculture and construction sectors. Georgia has also facilitated contract enforcement by introducing random and automatic assignment of cases to judges across courts. Importantly, Georgia has improved its insolvency framework by making insolvency proceedings more accessible for debtors and creditors, improving provisions on the treatment of contracts during insolvency, and granting creditors greater participation in important decisions during the proceedings. According to information from the Public Registry Agency, after a 35.95% growth in the number of liquidation procedures in 2019, this indicator saw a 29.33% drop in 2020, reaching 147 cases in total.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

The financing situation of medium-sized companies was still very good in the first two months of 2020.However, with the onset of the Corona pandemic at the end of the first quarter of 2020, companies were faced with dramatic revenue shortfalls.

In order to counteract the negative economic effects of the Corona crisis, the German government very quickly initiated extensive measures. With the “Corona Shield”, the federal government stabilized the economy, mobilized massive financial resources for employees, the self-employed and companies. A central pillar is the KfW Special Programme, which ensured companies quick access to urgently needed liquidity loans. The programme will run until the end of 2021.

As part of the Corona Shield, a package of measures for start-ups and SMEs have also made an important contribution to stabilising the market for equity capital in Germany. This package of measures is available in addition to the existing equity and venture capital financing instruments from the ERP Special Fund.

Now, even after the targeted measures to avert the economic consequences of the pandemic have or will come to an end, the task is to help the German economy emerge safely from the crisis. To this end, the differentiated range of support programmes funded by the ERP Special Fund is available and is being continuously refined.

The ERP Special Fund provides for a differentiated and well-established system of promotional loan instruments for different start-up phases. The loan programmes – ERP-Gründerkredit Startgeld (ERP Start-Up Loan-Start-Up Money), Gründerkredit Universell (ERP Start-Up Loan-Universal) and ERP-Kapital für Gründung (ERP Capital for Start-Ups) – provide particularly low-interest loans with a long maturity for start-ups as well as business succession. In some of these programmes, banks providing the financing are relieved from a portion of the credit default risk. ERP-Capital for Start-Ups provides subordinated loans with favourable interest rates in order to strengthen the company's equity base and thereby to facilitate further external financing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put many companies in economic distress. In many cases, corporate financing is facing major challenges. In order to cushion the effects of the pandemic, the large-volume KfW Special Programme for medium-sized and large companies was available from 23 March 2020 until end-December 2021. It provided access to liquidity loans for companies that were temporarily in difficulty due to the crisis. It was open to commercial enterprises of all sizes and to the liberal professions. The KfW Special Programme is based on the [ERP-Gründerkredit Universell] # ERP Start-up Loan - Universal and [KfW-Unternehmerkredit] # KfW Entrepreneur Loan programmes, the conditions of which have been modified and expanded. Working capital loans as well as investment loans are granted. A key element of success here is that the German Promotional Bank (KfW) exempts banks and savings banks from up to 90% of the credit default risk. This means that the state assumes this level of credit risk, making it easier for banks and savings banks to grant loans.

As a variant of the KfW Special programme, the KfW [KfW-Schnellkredit 2020] # Fast Loan 2020 has been available since 15 April 2020 with a 100% release from liability of the house banks. The aim is to support companies regardless of the number of employees and the self-employed through small-sized KfW loans with fast lending.

In order to provide the best possible support for SMEs in the post-pandemic period and in their transformation to a sustainable and digital economy, ERP funding will be restructured and further developed in the area of commercial SME financing from 2022. The core components are a simplification of the funding programmes and an improvement of the conditions. The re-organisation is intended to put almost all groups of companies in a better position, particularly with regard to interest rate reductions.

On the basis of a decision by the Bundestag, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and the KfW drafted an overall concept for an organisationally independent, growth-oriented venture capital company; it started operations as “KfW Capital” in October 2018. KfW Capital plans to double the annual amount of funding to EUR 400 million from 2021 onwards. This takes place via investments in venture capital funds, particularly as part of the ERP-VC Fund Investments programme as well as of the ERP/Future Fund Growth Facility as a module of the ‘Zukunftsfonds’. KfW Capital aims to improve the quality of venture capital funding. The aim is to develop a product structure in which the individual financing phases are coordinated throughout the entire company lifecycle.

ERP Special Fund and EIF have been cooperating very successfully in the field of equity and mezzanine financing for over 15 years. This makes an important contribution to ensuring that innovative start-ups in Germany have access to capital. The financing instruments include the ERP/EIF Venture Capital Fund of Funds with a total fund volume of EUR 3.7 billion (including the European Angels Fund Germany with a volume of EUR 400 million); the ERP/EIF/Länder Mezzanine Fund of Funds with a total fund volume of EUR 600 million; and the co-financing of the GFF-EIF Growth Facility (total volume of up to EUR 3.5 billion).

The Zukunftsfonds, set up by the Federal Government in 2021, is providing EUR 10 billion for a venture capital fund for forward-looking technologies (‘Future Fund’) to the KfW to foster the German venture capital market over the next 10 years. Taking into account the contributions from private and public-sector partners, this new Future Fund, with financial contributions from the ERP Special Fund, aims to mobilise at least EUR 30 billion in start-up funding. The overarching principle of the Future Fund is to broaden the German VC market by requiring a substantial private-sector investment contribution, also for the sake of market principles and in compliance with European competition and state-aid rules. The new fund addresses all development phases of start-up financing – with a special focus on start-ups going through the capital-intensive scale-up phase – with a set of closely interlinked modules, comprising both a qualitative and quantitative expansion of existing instruments and the development of new modules to increase start-up funding.

Within the Future Fund, the ERP/Future Fund Growth Facility will provide a total of EUR 2.5 billion to increase fund volumes and facilitate larger financing rounds for the period up to 2030. In the same vein, the new GFF-EIF Growth Facility, with a volume of up to EUR 3.5 billion, as well as the DeepTech Future Fund, have been established. A fund-of-funds for growth capital, for example, aims in particular to mobilise capital of institutional investors for start-ups. Further instruments and components of the Future Fund will be planned and implemented throughout 2022, such as a separately managed account module with a planned volume of up to EUR 2 billion and the expansion of the Venture Tech Growth Financing programme.

The High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) is an early-phase funding programme for highly innovative and technology-oriented companies whose operative business activities started less than three years ago. To be eligible for financing, projects must have shown promising research findings, be based on innovative technology, and have strong market prospects. In addition to providing capital, the fund ensures that the management of young start-ups receives the necessary help and support. An initial funding amount of up to EUR 1 million is provided, with a total of up to EUR 3 million usually being available per company. In the first phase of the fund (up to November 2011), a total of EUR 272 million was made available. The follow-up fund (HTGF II) provided total funding of EUR 304 million. A third fund, HTGF III, was launched in autumn 2017. In addition to the support from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and KfW Capital, more than 30% of the EUR 319.5 million fund has been provided by 33 private investors – either well-established SMEs or large corporations. In 2021 preparations for a follow-up fund (HTGF IV) were started.

The DeepTech Future Fonds (DTFF) is a new high-tech (deep-tech) investment fund that is financed by the Zukunftsfonds (Future Fund) and the ERP Special Fund. It has been launched with the task of helping deep-tech companies with validated business models to achieve sustainable growth while retaining their independence. The DTFF will always invest together with private investors. Acting as an anchor investor, its goal is to guide deep-tech companies on their journey towards capital market readiness. Based on this long-term perspective, the fund aims to bolster Germany’s profile as a hub of innovation and enhance its appeal for high-tech firms in the long term. Over the next ten years, the DTFF will be able to leverage a prospective total investment volume of up to EUR 1 billion. The fund will run for at least 25 years, with High-Tech Gründerfonds assuming responsibility for its management.

Since 2018 Coparion has provided funding for young and innovative companies at the same commercial terms as its private-sector lead investors. The investment of Coparion is limited to EUR 15 million per company. Coparion is able to allocate the maximum amount over several financing rounds. As a result, the EUR 275 million fund enables innovative young companies to draw on funding worth at least EUR 550 million. This makes Coparion an important player in the German venture capital market. The fund’s resources are provided by the ERP Special Fund, KfW Capital and the European Investment Bank (EIB). Currently Coparion has 44 companies in its portfolio.

The Micro-Mezzanine Fund was launched in 2013 and provides dormant equity of up to EUR 50 000 for small companies and business starters and up to EUR 150 000 for companies within the special target group. The fund’s special target group are companies that provide training, are operated by women or people with a migrant background, or were founded by people who were formerly unemployed. Social enterprises operating commercially are also eligible to apply for financing on the terms of the special target group, as are companies with a focus on environmentally-compatible production. Both the European Social Fund (ESF) and the ERP Special Fund finance the fund. The volume of the first fund was EUR 74.5 million. The current fund (MMF II) has a volume of EUR 153.2 million.

At the end of 2018, the KfW programme Venture Tech Growth Financing (VTGF) commenced operations. As part of this programme, KfW can issue EUR 50 million of venture capital loans to innovative fast-growing tech companies each year. Until 2022, up to EUR 500 million in funding will be made available together with private-sector investors to start-ups in the growth phase. Beyond this period, the VTGF programme is to be expanded up to a volume of EUR 1.3 billion with contributions from the Future Fund.

INVEST is a grant programme run by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs. It was set up in 2013 and further developed in 2017 to support private investors who want to acquire a stake in young and innovative companies. Under this programme, business angels who invest in innovative start-ups receive an acquisition grant worth 20% of the sum invested. In addition, natural persons can receive an exit grant if they sell their shares. The amount provided is equivalent to 25% of the capital gains from the sale and thus more or less covers the tax imposed on the profit from the sale. The shares must be held for a minimum of three years. Both grants are tax-free for the investor. Funding can be provided for a maximum of EUR 500 000 of investment per investor and per year. The maximum amount eligible for funding that can be invested in a single company per year is EUR 3 million.

94.6% of Greek businesses (680 038) are micro-enterprises employing less than 10 employees, 4.8% (34 701) are small enterprises, 0.5% (3 819) are medium-sized enterprises, and 0.1% (522) are large enterprises

During 2020 and during the first quarter of 2021, economic activity declined significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to reduce it. Real GDP shrank by 8.2% in 2020, mainly due to declining service exports and private consumption. The decline in consumer demand also resulted in the depletion of SMEs’ liquidity, which swiftly turned to different sources of finance. As a result, in 2020, new business lending to Greek SMEs increased 1.75 times in relation to 2019. The significant acceleration of bank lending to enterprises was also facilitated by the improvement of the conditions under which banks derived financial resources from the Eurosystem, as well as by the significant support provided by bank lending/co-financing schemes and guarantees offered by the Hellenic Development Bank.

However, despite the increase in new lending, outstanding credit to all businesses and to SMEs fell for the eighth year in a row, reaching EUR 66.6 billion in 2020. The continual decline of SME outstanding stock of loans coincided with a moderate economic recovery between 2014 and 2019. Nonetheless, in 2020 the decline in the outstanding stock of SME loans was driven by a significant removal of non-performing loans (NPLs) from Greek banks’ balance sheets (from 36.1% of total loans in 2019 to 28.5% of total loans in 2020) through the introduction in late 2019 of the “Hercules” asset-protection scheme.

Interest rates for both SMEs and large firms fell for the eighth year in a row in 2020, reaching 3.94% and 2.83% respectively, but the spread between the two increased (1.11) compared to 0.85 in 2018. This explains the risk-averse approach of Greek banks against SMEs particularly during the pandemic. Credit conditions tightened significantly and access to finance continues to be a central problem for Greek SMEs, according to the most recent ECB Survey on Access to Finance of Enterprises (SAFE), with 18% of Greek SMEs citing access to finance as the most important problem they currently face, compared to an EU-28 average of 9%. Furthermore, Greece shows the highest percentage of SMEs reporting difficulties in accessing bank loans (22%) and the highest proportion of SMEs reporting fear of application rejections in the EU.

The proportion of Greek SMEs that required collateral when they applied for a loan to a bank continued to decrease, to 18.4% in 2020 compared to 20.7% in 2018. The rejection rate declined to 12.3% compared to 2018 (20.5%) but increased slightly compared to 2019 (11.4%).

In 2020, alternative sources of finance were hard hit in Greece. Factoring decreased to EUR 1.89 million compared to EUR 1.96 million in 2019, leasing and hire purchase activities also decreased in 2020, reaching EUR 3.3 billion compared to EUR 4.2 billion in 2017. Venture capital was also strongly hit compared to 2019, declining by 46.7% in 2020 and reaching EUR 78.8 million from EUR 148.3 million in 2019.

The percentage of SME non-performing loans related to all SME loans was 28.5% in 2020 and has declined for the fifth year in a row since 2016, when it had reached 43.2%. Such decline is explained by public programmes such as the Hercules Programme that assists commercial banks in securitising and removing NPLs from their balance sheets. Despite this, in 2020, almost 20% of all business loans were non-performing in Greece.

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greek government put in place several measures to tackle the impact of the crisis on SMEs. One of the measures in place was the “COVID-19 guarantee Fund” providing a guarantee coverage of up to 80% per loan. During the first cycle, the guarantee rate was set at 80% per loan, while the maximum guarantee was set at 40% for a loan portfolio to SMEs and 30% for a loan portfolio to large companies. An additional budget of EUR 780 million was added on the second cycle of the COVID guarantee fund, so the total available funds of the two cycles amounted to EUR 1.78 billion. In the second cycle of the Fund the provision of the guarantee paid by the companies is fully subsidised. 75% to 90% of the new loans of the second cycle of the Guarantee Fund are addressed with priority to MSMEs.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

According to the preliminary data of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, at the end of 2019, 836 020 enterprises operated in Hungary, 97.72% of which (817 012 enterprises) qualified as SMEs. Based on the European Commission’s data on the business economy that ensures comparability between EU member states, the number of persons employed by Hungarian SMEs somewhat exceeds the EU average. Meanwhile the value added generated by these SMEs stands slightly below the EU average.

Hungary had a significantly lower economic downturn in 2020 (-5.0%) than the EU average (- 6.2%), partly due to the economic protection measures and industry's favourable performance in comparison to the rest of the EU.

Despite the coronavirus outbreak, investment rates remained high in Hungary at 27.5% as a percentage of GDP. The pick-up in investment performance was mainly driven by real estate (+12%), public administration (+33%), education (+31%) and, partly related to the epidemic, health (+45%) branches. The high level of investment can also be the result of conditional grants to enterprises based on the implementation of projects within a limited timeframe, which may have incentivised and accelerated investment decisions from SME owners.

The share of high-tech companies in exports is high in Hungary, providing a good basis for increasing the share of high value added activities.

The unemployment rate in Hungary (4.3%) was the 5th lowest in April among EU member states. There is a strong labour market with sufficient labour market reserve for restarting the economy.

SME loans (loans up to EUR 1 million) expanded by 13.2% in 2020. The average interest rate of forint SME loans experienced a slight increase, at 2.6% by the fourth quarter of 2020. The average interest rate of high-amount HUF loans increased to 2% by the end of 2020.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic shock, venture activity experienced a strong increase throughout Europe and in Hungary in 2020 compared to the previous year. During 2020, EUR 226.3 million was invested into Hungarian companies through 236 transactions. There was a 15% increase in the total number of transactions, and 36% increase in the total invested amount compared to 2019. In 2020 the total amount of newly raised funds took a hit.

In case of Hungarian companies receiving investments, the two largest sectors by total invested amount were Financial and Insurance activities and ICT (Information and communications technology), which together accounted for 52% of total investment value and 41% of total number of investments. In 2020, the largest transactions (considering average deal size) occurred in the Financial and Insurance activities and Transportation, with average deal size of EUR 4.1 million and EUR 2.0 million respectively. The most significant difference between industry and market statistics were reported in the Financial and Insurance sector, showing a larger interest for companies operating in this sector by foreign investors. In this sector, the average deal size was EUR 4.1 million according to market statistics versus 1.4 million according to the industry statistics.

As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, the measures introduced by the Government (under the Economic Protection Action Plan) had the objective of preserving jobs and supporting businesses with liquidity problems. Since March 2020, the government mobilised in total HUF 9 500 billion through various measures to stimulate the economy, which could enter the economy by the end of 2021.

In 2020, it was decided to launch investment support programmes with an amount of nearly HUF 1 000 billion, which could lead to nearly HUF 2 000 billion development in the near future.

The Economic Relaunch Action Plan was designed to gradually ease conditions and relaunch economic activities in three phases. In the first phase, HUF 100 billion in Interest Free Restart Fast Loan were provided by the Hungarian Development Bank (MFB). The second phase focuses on strengthening higher education, and the third phase concentrates on enhancing green energy, circular economy construction and full digitisation of the economy.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

Based on data published by the Ministry of Cooperatives and SMEs of the Republic of Indonesia, there were 64 194 056 SMEs in 2019, which made up 99.99% of the total business population and employed 96.9% of the total workforce. In this report, SMEs consist of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

Outstanding loans to all businesses declined by 3.2% year on year (y-o-y) in 2020 (IDR 6,069.39 trillion), with 20.43% of this amount (IDR 1 240.23 trillion) allocated to SMEs. Despite the decrease in 2020, outstanding loans in the past ten years (2011-20) still experienced growth with an average yearly growth rate of 13.38%.

In the last three years (2018-20), non-performing loans (NPLs) have been increasing both for SMEs (from 3.35% to 3.95%) and for total businesses (from 2.40% to 3.03%). The COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have contributed to this increase. Nevertheless, NPLs are still well managed and remain under 5%.

The share of short-term loans for SMEs over total short-term loans fell by 16.43% in the 2011-2020 period, from 25.4% in 2011 to 8.96% in 2020. While in 2011 the amount of short-term outstanding loans for SMEs was IDR 120 trillion, in 2020 it stood at IDR 131.66 trillion; this represents an increase of 9% in the 2011-20 period. However, long-term loans in the same period experienced much stronger growth, rising from IDR 354.9 trillion in 2011 to IDR 1 084 trillion in 2020, which corresponds to a compound growth rate of 205.44% and an annual average growth rate of 14.54%. The increasing trend in long-term loans illustrates lenders’ higher trust in Indonesian SMEs.

In the period from 2011-2020, interest rates on loans declined for all business, by 3.8% for SMEs (from 14.53% to 10.69%) and 2.92% for large companies (from 12.28% to 9.36%). Although interest rates are declining in Indonesia, they are still very high compared to the average in other countries.

Venture capital financing shows a significant increase, reaching IDR13.40 trillion in 2020, a 208% increase compared to 2012. In the 2012-2020 period, the amount of financing grew positively, with an average growth rate of 16.73%.

Other non-bank finance indicators show a slight decline in 2020 compared to 2019. Leasing and hire purchases decreased by 13% in 2020. Factoring activities also exhibit a similar trend, decreasing by 24% in 2020.

Accessing finance is still challenging for most SMEs in Indonesia. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, many SMEs have been affected by financial problems. After successfully launching the People Business Credit Programme or Kredit Usaha Rakyat (KUR) in 2007, the Indonesian government launched the National Economy Recovery Program in 2020 to overcome the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with total support for MSME and corporation financing amounting to IDR 173.17 trillion in 2020 and 186.81 trillion in 2021.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

Irish SMEs account for 99.8 percent of all active enterprises and to 68% of those employed.

Debt levels of Irish businesses are declining steadily, and have reduced 53% since 2010, from EUR 27.1 billion to EUR 12.8 billion in 2020.

Gross new lending to core SMEs was EUR 2.9 billion in 2020, representing a 20% annual decrease. This decline is likely driven by a demand-side challenge. Survey data from the SME Credit Demand Survey show that SMEs in Ireland are choosing less to access bank credit. In 2020 this is explained by the size of direct governmental support during the COVID-19 crisis, which included direct grants and payments to closed or impacted businesses, tax warehousing, the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWISS) within others.

Loan approval rates continue to be stable, with 85% of all applications for the period March – October 2020 (excluding “still pending”) either being fully or partially approved.

The interest rate spread was 1.94, between large (2.23%) and small loans (4.17%), a slight decrease from 2019 levels.

The amount of venture capital raised by Irish SMEs increased in 2020, to EUR 820 million, marking an 11% increase on 2019 figures, this growth represents the same percentage increase as from 2018 to 2019 and is explained by base effects of the significant decrease from 2017 to 2018. Figures for Q1 2021 show continued increase in activity, with 74 companies receiving funding compared to 43 in the same quarter last year.

Significant progress has been made towards resolving SME NPLs in recent years and though there has been a slight increase in NPLs over the course of the COVID-19 crisis in general terms trends continue to move in a downward trajectory.

The Irish Government has implemented a range of measures to assist SMEs in dealing with the consequences of COVID-19 restrictions, and to ensure that SMEs continue to have access to sufficient liquidity. These include tax measures and loan schemes to assist SME, as well as direct support including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and Covid Restriction Support Scheme (CRSS).

Ireland’s National Promotional Bank, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland has worked closely with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Finance in the design of and implementation of a number of credit related support schemes including schemes aimed at SMEs affected by COVID-19 restrictions, such as;

  • the COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme;

  • the Future Growth Loan Scheme; and

  • the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme

The overriding objective of these schemes is that credit is available at competitive prices for those firms that require it.

Credit Review was established in 2010 to assist SME or farm borrowers who have been refused bank credit, including a SBCI product. It helps SMEs who have had an application for credit of up to EUR 3 million declined or reduced by the main banks, and who feel that they have a viable business proposition. This is a strictly confidential process between the business, the Credit Review and the bank.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

As of 2021, there were 625 267 businesses in Israel, 99.5% of which were SMEs (i.e. companies employing up to 100 workers). In an average year, 55 000-60 000 businesses are created and about 50 000 close down. In 2020, 51 436 new companies were established and 38 209 were closed. Removal of government support measures might result in many enterprises shutting down in the post-crisis period.

SME and entrepreneurship policies in Israel are primarily designed by the Ministry of Economy and Industry and implemented by the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) and the Small and Medium Business Agency (SMBA). While the IIA (formerly known as the Chief Science Office) focuses on leading technology-based start-ups and SMEs, the SMBA caters to all SMEs in Israel’s main economic sectors through business management training and coaching, subsidized access to finance (for example, through the national loan guarantee program) and the work of the business development centres (MAOF centres).

2020 was a very challenging year for Israel's economy due to the COVID-19 crisis. In response, the local government tried to reduce the negative impact of the crisis through the provision of grants, government-guaranteed loans and other relief programs in order to prevent massive deterioration in the local economy.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for the vast majority of Italian firms, providing nearly 80% of the industrial and service labour force and generating about two-thirds of turnover and value added.

The impact of the pandemic led to disruptions in business activity and liquidity shortages. Credit markets were buttressed by the ECB’s expansionary monetary policy measures, flanked by the financial support initiatives adopted by the Government. Lending increased at a sustained pace for large enterprises and, after many years of contraction, also for small companies.

Lending standards remained broadly relaxed in 2020. Business borrowing rates stood at low levels, and collateral requirements declined, partly as a result of the widespread recourse to public guarantee schemes.

Credit quality improved further, benefitting from the financial support measures adopted by the Government after the outbreak of the pandemic. The ratio of SME new non-performing loans to outstanding loans reached the lowest level in fifteen years. The stock of non-performing exposures dropped significantly, as a result of their further disposal during the pandemic.

Equity financing for SMEs, provided in the form of early stage and expansion capital, increased moderately, entirely driven by a sustained growth in the early stage segment; by contrast, resources devoted to large firms decreased markedly, after remaining virtually unchanged in the previous year.

Business-to-business payment delays, on a declining path after the sharp upswing recorded during the global financial crisis, started rising again at the outbreak of the health emergency; payment patterns returned close to pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2020.

Bankruptcies dropped for the sixth year in a row, down by more than 30% with respect to 2019: the sharp decline can be partly explained by the moratorium on insolvencies and the slowdown in court activity due to the pandemic containment measures.

The Government unleashed a broad policy effort to counter the unprecedented challenges faced by SMEs during the pandemic through a wide range of financial support measures. These initiatives, originally focused on liquidity relief, were progressively matched by broader recovery packages.

Credit guarantee schemes have traditionally played a crucial role in easing SME access to finance. During the pandemic the Central Guarantee Fund was further strengthened, by widening the range of potential beneficiaries, raising the coverage ratios of loans, increasing capital endowments and simplifying procedures. The State guarantee system was boosted by giving SACE, the Italian export credit agency whose tasks were redefined, the role of providing public guarantees to large firms; the initiative was also extended to SMEs that had exhausted their ability to access the Central Guarantee Fund.

Other provisions included the roll-out of a debt moratorium to help firms cope with temporary liquidity shortages due to the abrupt fall in production. This measure allowed SMEs to obtain the freezing of uncommitted credit facilities, an extension on maturing loans, and the suspension of instalment payments.

The emergency measures were later flanked by more selective initiatives, aimed at avoiding imbalances in the financial structure of firms. Measures aimed at encouraging a greater inflow of equity into the productive system envisaged a wide range of instruments to strengthen capitalisation and promote the recovery of economic activity.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/e9073a0f-en

Japanese SMEs accounted for 99.7% of all businesses and employed 32 million individuals, or approximately 68.8% of the private sector labour force, in 2016.

Lending to SMEs declined every year between 2007 and 2012, reaching a total decrease of 6.6% over that period. In 2013, outstanding SME loans rose by 1.5%, and have continued to increase since then: JPY 286.6 trillion in 2019 and JPY 314.9 trillion in 2020.

Average interest rates on new short-term loans in Japan have been very low and continuously declined between 2007 and in 2017, more than halving from 1.64% to 0.61%, as a result of easing monetary policy. Long-term interest rates on new loans followed a broadly similar pattern, declining from 1.7% in 2007 to 0.76% in 2020.

Japanese venture capital investments peaked in FY 2007 at JPY 193 billion, before decreasing by 29.5% and 36% in FY 2008 and 2009 respectively. Since 2009, VC investments have been inconsistent. Since 2014 VC investments increased and reached JPY 289 billion in 2019, which was the highest value since 2007.The amount of investment in 2020 declined by 22.4 %, amounting to JPY 224 billion. One of the possible reasons behind this drop is that some of the VC funds could not make their investment decisions during the first half of 2020 because of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. This might be resolved in the second half of the year by using online communication methods.

Leasing volumes to SMEs plummeted in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, dropping by almost 40% between 2007 and 2009. Subsequently, with the recovery of domestic capital investment demand, the volumes have been on an upward trend and recovered to 2.7 trillion in 2019. In 2020, leasing volumes fell to JPY 2.3 trillion due to a sharp drop in capital investment demand for machine tools and industrial machinery by Japanese companies as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

SME bankruptcies, which account for more than 99% of all bankruptcies in Japan, decreased between 2007 and 2020. In 2020, the number of cases was below 8 000 for the first time in 30 years.

Total non-performing business loans have continuously declined since 2013, after having experienced erratic movement over the 2007-12 period. In 2019, total NPLs amounted to JPY 10 326 billion.

The Japanese Government offers financial support for SMEs in the form of a credit guarantee programme and direct loans. In March 2018, the total amount of outstanding SME loans was approximately JPY 267 trillion (provided by domestically licensed banks and credit associations); the outstanding amount of the credit guarantee programme was JPY 22.2 trillion (covering 1.3 million SMEs); and the outstanding amount of the direct loan programme was JPY 21.2 trillion, (covering 1 million of Japan’s 3.81 million SMEs). In 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, government-affiliated and private financial institutions offered interest-free and unsecured loans of up to 5 years, and provided JPY 100 trillion yen in business scale and JPY 12.5 trillion in budget.