Country snapshots

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there were 2,565,367 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Australia in 2021-22. SMEs account for 99.8% of all enterprises in Australia and employed more than 8.1 million people in 2021-22, which equates to around 66% of employment in the private sector.

The Australian economy has shown resilience to global headwinds, supported by a post-pandemic rebound in household spending, strong employment growth and a rise in wages. According to economic forecasts produced by the Australian Department of the Treasury, most recently reported in the 2023-24 Budget in May 2023, real GDP growth is expected to slow to 1½% in 2023-24, and then strengthen to 2¼% in 2024–25. This near-term outlook for Australia is unchanged from the October Budget.

Interest rates for both SMEs and large businesses have returned to pre-pandemic levels. SME interest rates in Australia have increased from 3.10% in 2021 to 5.48% in 2022. The interest rate spread between SME loans and large enterprise loans, which remained elevated at above 160 basis points since 2012, declined to 99 basis points in 2022. The low spread between interest rates for large and small businesses mainly reflects the fact that a high share of SME credit was fixed at low interest rates during the pandemic and some of these loans are yet to roll off onto higher interest rates.

New lending to SMEs increased from AUD 104.4 billion in 2021 to AUD 116.1 billion in 2022, mostly driven by lending to medium businesses. In 2021-22, the share of SME outstanding loans stood at 45.1% of total outstanding business loans. Growth in new lending to SMEs was strong in the first half of 2022, however, slowed down significantly since October 2022 given higher borrowing costs and a weaker appetite for new finance.

The total amount of venture capital invested by registered Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships (ESVCLPs) and Venture Capital Limited Partnerships (VCLPs) increased in 2019-20 by 54.6%, totalling AUD 1.5 billion, decreased in 2020-21 by 8.0% to AUD 1.4 billion, before rising to a high of AUD 2.1 billion in 2021-22, an increase of 48.4%. In 2021-2022, Australia saw a record surge in venture capital investment driven by an increased number of mega deals (AUD 50 million and above). This momentum did not carry forward into the second half of 2022 with both the number of deals and average deal size declining sharply – especially in later-stage funding rounds. Despite this downturn investment levels continue to exceed those observed pre-Covid, helped in part by a rise in deal size at the pre-seed and seed stage.

Leasing and hire purchase volumes dropped by 13.4% through the year to AUD 8.9 billion in 2022, this compares to an increase of 4.8% in 2020 and a decrease of 1.9% in 2021.

The number of bankruptcies per 10,000 businesses fell from 53 in 2012 to 29 in 2019, then continued to decrease during the pandemic in response to COVID-19 related policies before reaching its historical low of 15 in 2021-22. In March 2020, the Australian Government announced a series of temporary changes to bankruptcy law to protect otherwise viable businesses from bankruptcy. These measures expired on 31 December 2020. Permanent reforms, including a new formal debt restructuring process and a simplified liquidation pathway, came into effect on 1 January 2021, which are 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 endeavours. Policies aiming to increase long-term opportunities for SMEs include taxation and business incentives, export financing, and small business assistance.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

As in many EU countries, SMEs contribute substantially to Austria’s economy. In 2021, 99.8% of all firms were SMEs, employing approximately 66% of the labour force. The capital structure of SMEs in Austria is traditionally biased towards debt financing, and 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.

In 2022, the outstanding business loans amounted to EUR 201.4 billion, which is an increase of around 9% compared to 2021. These are the holdings of non-financial corporations in Austria, according to the monetary statistics. In the Granular Credit Data Collection (GKE), conducted by the Austrian Central Bank (OeNB), Austrian credit institutions reported a total utilization to businesses of EUR 199.5 billion as of 31 December 2022. Of this, EUR 92.3 billion was awarded to the SME segment in Austria: EUR 28.8 billion to micro-enterprises, EUR 30.2 billion to small companies and EUR 33.3 billion to medium-sized companies.

In the case of non-financial corporations, EUR 4.28 billion were flagged as non-performing. This resulted in a nonperforming loans (NPL) ratio of 2.14%, which is almost the same as the year before (2.15%). EUR 3.05 billion were reported as non-performing in the SME sub-segment. This resulted in an NPL ratio for SMEs of 3.31%. In 2021, the NPL ratio for SMEs was slightly lower registering 3.09%.

The share of SMEs’ new business lending was smaller than in previous years, with almost 12%. Interest rates have increased quite significantly, with an average interest rate of 2.08% in 2022 for loans up to EUR 1 million, compared to 1.63% in 2021. In 2022, interest rates for larger firms with loans over EUR 1 million were lower compared to SME interest rates at 1.82% but have also increased compared to 2021 when the interest rates for large firms were 1.34%.

When it comes to non-bank finance, venture capital declined by 65% compared to 2021. On the other hand, leasing and hire purchases as well as factoring and invoicing both showed a steady upward trend since 2014. Leasing and hire purchases increased almost 9%, factoring and invoicing by almost 18%.

Payment delays increased slightly in the B2B sphere, from 12 days in 2021 to 14 days in 2022. However, in the B2C sphere there was an improvement, with a 6-day payment gap in 2022, compared to 10 days in 2021. Bankruptcies have reached pre-crisis levels, with around 10 bankruptcies per 1 000 firms. Overall, there were 4 913 bankruptcies in 2022, an increase of almost 60% compared to the previous two years, which were exceptional and cannot be seen as representative. The 2022 figure is closer to the figures registered prior to the pandemic. Of the 4 913 companies that went bankrupt, 4 903 were SMEs, which also corresponds to the share of SMEs in the national economy.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

In 2022, SMEs dominated the business enterprise landscape in Belgium, accounting for 99.8% of all firms.

The outstanding stock of SME loans was stable on an annual basis (+0.9%) compared with an increase of 4.5% the previous year. This relative stability can be explained by the global economic context and the significant support measures taken by the Belgian government in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

SME interest rates increased significantly to 2.06% in 2022. The interest rate spread between loans charged to large enterprises and loans charged to SMEs remains virtually unchanged at 15 basis points.

Survey data illustrates that lending conditions eased between 2013 and the end of 2015 and remained relatively stable until the end of 2018. A deterioration of credit conditions for SMEs has been reported since the fourth quarter of 2018, and the latest figures from third quarter 2023 confirm this trend.

After a fall in leasing volumes of -8.14% in 2020, this activity recovered in 2021 and 2022 with an annual growth rate of 13% and 13.9% respectively. High inflation, which pushed up asset prices, and the announcement of a number of tax changes for vehicles supported this strong growth in 2022.

The factoring business has also expanded significantly over the last two years, with annual growth rates of 21.6% in 2021 and 25% in 2022. This increase can be attributed to the potential decline in factoring experienced in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by robust developments in the last two years.

The amount of venture and growth capital investments fluctuates considerably due to the small number of deals conducted annually. After nearly doubling from 2020 to 2021, these investments decreased by 26.1% in 2022, totaling EUR 1.1 billion.

After a steady decline from 2016 to 2020, average payment delays for business-to-business transactions rose to 11 days in 2022. This is slightly below the annual average of 12.7% for the reference period (2009-2022).

The number of registered bankruptcies increased to 9 265 (+42%) in 2022. This increase can be explained by the end of various support measures for businesses taken in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, including the end of the moratorium on bankruptcies. However, the total number of bankruptcies remains lower than the number recorded in 2019 (10 598).

Policy initiatives to ease SMEs’ access to finance have been taken at both the federal and regional levels. In 2021 and 2022, policy measures were primarily aimed at protecting healthy businesses in the context of COVID-19 and the energy crises resulting from the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

For example, the ‘Overbruggingslening’ aims to support Flemish companies, including those in agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, and aquaculture, that have acute liquidity needs due to the war in Ukraine, rising energy costs, and the overall increase in price levels. The terms of this loan include a minimum loan amount of EUR 10 000 and a maximum amount of EUR 2 million.

Another case in point is the “Fonds de transition” programme, which started in September 2022. The objective of the programme is to finance SMEs in Brussels that need to transform their business models and production lines in order to meet regional and European environmental and climate objectives. The financing terms include amounts ranging from EUR 80 000 to EUR 1.5 million through loans, bank co-financing, quasi-equity debt or minority equity stakes in companies.

The Chèque-Entreprise Relance par le numérique or Business Voucher Digital Recovery programme in Wallonia started in November 2022 and is set to end on 31 August 2023. The objective of the programme is to help SMEs boost their digitalization, online activities, and cybersecurity. Public intervention amounts to 90% of the amounts concerned with variable ceilings for each phase, for a total subsidy of EUR 15 000.

In light of escalating energy prices and their subsequent effect on production costs and professional expenses, the Federal Government has launched the ‘Droit Passerelle Energie’ initiative to support self-employed workers, helpers, and assisting spouses who opt to pause or terminate their independent activity due to diminished profitability. This scheme offers an allowance for a duration of up to 12 months and maintains healthcare and disability benefits for up to 4 quarters without needing contributions.

Micro and small enterprises (MSEs) form an essential part of the Brazilian economy, accounting for 93.7% of all legally constituted companies (20.3 million) according to the Enterprise Map as of December 2023.

The reference interest rate of Banco Central do Brasil (Special Clearance and Escrow System - SELIC) has gradually declined, from 14.15% per annum in December 2015 to 2.0% in January 2021. The previous period of a 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. Since January 2021, the reference interest rate increased substantially, returning to the standard seen previously in 2016, reaching 13.75% in August 2022 and being adjusted to 12.25% in the second semester of 2023, which impacted SME loans.

The stock of SME loans fell in 2015 and new lending to SMEs declined in 2014 and 2015. Both observations 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 in both new lending and outstanding stock of loans was observed in 2020 due to measures adopted in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (especially through programmes such as Pronampe and PEAC). The level of lending (stock and flows) was maintained in 2021 and 2022, reflecting an increase in the share of SME loans over total loans.

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 of providing 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, fostering financing digital companies and more competitive market.

In October 2023, the Brazilian government created a Ministry for Entrepreneurship, Micro and Small Enterprises, highlighting the importance of SMEs in the Brazilian agenda.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

In 2022, Canadian small businesses establishments (1-99 employees) constituted 98% of all businesses. Small businesses employed 6.6 million individuals at the enterprise level, or 41.1% of the private sector labour force.

Supply-side survey data show that outstanding debt held by all businesses increased in 2022 to CAD 1 236 billion. Lending to small businesses increased to CAD 140.4 billion (from CAD 125.7 billion in 2021). As a result, small businesses’ share of total outstanding business loans in 2022 was 11.4%.

Small business credit conditions tightened in 2022. The average interest rate charged to small businesses increased from 4.1% in 2021 to 6.2% in 2022, with an average business prime rate (the rate charged to the most creditworthy borrowers) of 4.1% (from 2.5% in 2021). The business risk premium (measured as the difference between the average small business interest rate and the business prime rate) stood at 2.1%, reflecting a tightening in access to financing for small businesses in Canada. Bank of Canada survey results indicate that lenders reported that overall business lending conditions tightened towards the end of the second half of 2022. Borrowers also reported tightening of credit conditions during the same period.

In 2022, the small business 90-day delinquency rate fell to 0.33% after reaching 0.66% in 2021 and 0.76% in 2020.

Total venture capital (VC) investment levels in Canada reached a peak of CAD 14.4 billion in 2021, followed by a decline to CAD 9.8 billion in 2022.

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), a crown corporation with the mandate to support Canadian entrepreneurship, had CAD 47.8 billion in financing and investments, as of 31 March 2022, committed to 95 000 clients operating across Canada. As the most active VC investor in Canada, the BDC invests both directly into firms and indirectly through external VC funds, with the objective of making Canadian VC a financially viable and attractive asset class for private sector investors and institutional investors.

The Government of Canada has further supported the development Canada’s VC ecosystem by convening public, private, and institutional sources of financing through its Venture Capital Action Plan (VCAP) and Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI). Taken together, the Government of Canada has invested CAD 761 million, resulting in a combined total of over CAD 3 billion in capital raised from public and private sources to help Canadian companies start up and grow.

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 7 billion in the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES); of CAD 265 million in the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP); of CAD 38 million for Futurpreneur, a programme to support youth entrepreneurs; and of CAD 150 million for the Indigenous Growth Fund launched by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association alongside with the BDC. The Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Programme also provides support to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation entrepreneurs by lowering the cost of business financing and offering business support services.

The Government of Canada launched Canada’s Export Diversification Strategy in Fall of 2018. In total, the Export Diversification Strategy is a CAD 1.1 billion investment over six years, that aims to help Canadian businesses access new markets and increase Canada’s overseas exports by 50% by 2025.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

In general, as of September 2023, inflation has continued to fall, although it remains high, in a context where activity and demand have continued to advance in their adjustment process, cost pressures have been reduced and two-year inflation expectations stand at 3%.

From a subnational perspective, GDP grew in all regions, registering a rise of 2.4% for the country. It was estimated that in 2023 it would fall between -1.75% and -0.75% and increase between 2 and 3% in 2024. To a large extent, the downward correction for 2023 and 2024 responds to the new assumption for trend growth.

The Internal Revenue Service (SII) provides a size classification according to total annual sales of businesses. MSMEs concentrate 98.56% of companies according to SII records for the tax year 2021, excluding companies without information from the total universe of companies (i.e. excluding informal entities). MSMEs only accounted for 13.93% of total annual sales in UF.

According to the Quarterly Survey of Bank Credit Conditions of the Central Bank of Chile in Q4 2022, the conditions for the supply of credit to companies remain limited. The fraction of entities reporting more demanding loan standards for large firms and SMEs reached 39% and 36%, respectively, which is slightly lower than the figures reported during the previous quarter.

As in previous years, in 2022, Chile developed a solid economic relief plan through the so-called ‘Chile Apoya Plan”, an inclusive recovery plan including 25 measures to boost job creation, support smaller firms, and address the rise in the cost of living, among others.

In the case of smaller firms, support was channelled through Production Development Corporation (Corfo) and Technical Cooperation Service (Sercotec). These institutions sought to expand the coverage of support programmes for reactivation and the creation of special support instruments focused on tourism and culture sectors, with a special focus on gender parity and fostering cooperatives. The programmes allowed to assist more than 120 000 MSMEs and cooperatives from all regions of the country, for a total of USD 1 billion.

Additionally, for MSMEs a new stream to access credit guarantees was delivered by the creation of the Fogape Chile Apoya bill. Unlike the previous two Fogape bills (2020 and 2021), the state guarantee for loans is exclusively for MSMEs.

In 2021, the guarantee programmes granted by the Corfo, such as COBEX, Pro Inversión and FOGAIN, benefited almost 32,000 companies, reflecting an increase of 62.3% compared to the same period of 2021, granting more than 40,000 operations with Corfo Guarantees of more than USD 1.3 million. 89% of the guarantees were allocated to micro and small firms.

Venture capital funds, supported by Corfo programmes, continue to be an important source of financing for technology-based companies with high growth capacity. Although in 2020 there was a 14% drop in investments compared to 2019, mainly due to the effects of the pandemic, in 2021 and 2022, venture capital investment experienced a year-on-year growth of 30% and 23% respectively, growing from CLP 49 billion in investment in 2020 (about USD 63 million) to CLP 77 billion (about USD 89 million) in 2022.

In the case of non-bank financing, in 2022 the Corfo MiPymes Credit Programme allowed 82,000 companies to access financing through non-bank financial institutions, mobilising almost USD 255 million in credits, factoring and leasing.

In 2022, the Superintendence of Insolvency and Reentrepreneurship (Superir) worked on the modernisation project of regulation No. 20,720, with the aim of providing relief by reallocating resources and creating new procedures for micro and small enterprises in order to ease their experience.

Finally, the Commission for the Financial Market (CMF) has been leading the discussion of the Fintech bill. The bill was approved by the Congress in December 2022, and promulgated on January 2023. The Law establishes a flexible regulatory framework for a number of companies that offer financial services but are not currently regulated or supervised by the Financial Market Commission. These include crowdfunding platforms, financial transaction platforms and custodians, intermediation and order routing.

Additionally, a new framework is created for the development of a regulated Open Finance System, in which Chilean citizens and firms will be able to share, with prior consent, their financial information, with the aim of accessing better products and services.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

Access to finance is one of the main elements for strengthening and keeping entrepreneurships and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) growing, allowing them to invest in order to increase their productivity, competitiveness and consolidation in the market. In times of economic distress, obstacles to access formal financing sources, significantly limit MSMEs’ ability to invest in upgrading their operations or in innovation, as they are required to have liquidity buffers to face economic uncertainty.

In 2022, for example, there were a range of factors that led to economic uncertainty becoming a global challenge for enterprises. The large-scale aggression of Russia against Ukraine, global inflation, major economic slowdowns, the lack of raw materials, an energy crisis, and a rise in interest rates have made the economic outlook tense. As a result of this, markets suffered high volatility.

In Colombia, uncertainty was felt in spite of relatively good internal economic performance compared to other countries in the region. On the one hand, the rise in interest rates and high inflation during the year has been a source of concern, and on the other hand, relative uncertainty could have emerged as a result of the change of government. Notwithstanding, GDP grew by 7.3% in 2022, and 310 000 new enterprises were established, which represents 1% more than in 2021. Of the newly established businesses, 62.5% are enterprises led by women (Confecámaras, 2023[1]).

The results of the Entrepreneurial opinion survey, conducted by Fedesarrollo, demonstrated that trust by traders increased and reached 22.6% in December 2022 due to greater optimism about the current situation, in comparison with 19.2% in November of the same year. However, it is important to note that this percentage is below the 41.3% recorded in the same period in 2021 (Fedesarrollo, 2022[2]).

The entrepreneurial opinion survey also provides information regarding the main sources of finance used by MSMEs. Findings show that 50.6% of micro-enterprises indicated their own resources as the most important source of finance, 39% mention profit reinvestment, 23.9% choose traditional bank loans. Nevertheless, promoting financial inclusion and bridging the gap in access to finance as a mechanism to reduce business informality in Colombia continues to be an internal challenge.

In relation to the destination of credit resources, the majority of SMEs in the three main sectors (manufacturing, services, and trade) used credit resources to finance working capital. The second most frequent use of resources was the consolidation of liabilities, and the third use was the purchase or lease of machinery. Particularly, this last use was evident in companies in the industrial sector.

On the other hand, despite the lack of sources to accurately calculate business informality1, estimates show that the percentage of informal businesses in Colombia is high. According to data reported in the Household Survey, it is estimated that over 57.6% of businesses are informal, with the percentage even higher in rural regions at 84.7%, correlating with limited access to financing. In the country, only 15.8% of microenterprises have access to credit products, 63.6% for small enterprises, and 77% for medium-sized enterprises (Banca de Oportunidades, 2023[3]).

1. Formalisation is a mean for companies to be economically, environmentally and socially included in the markets, increase productivity rates, access the financial system, and become sustainable. Although a percentage of companies in Colombia are not completely formal, there are several in the transition to formality.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

In 2021, there were roughly 1.23 million active enterprises in the Czech Republic. 99.86% of these firms were SMEs with less than 250 employees each. Micro-firms dominated the business landscape, comprising 96 % of all SMEs in 2022. The total number of SME employees decreased by 36 000 in 2020 compared to 2019 and remained constant in 2021. Given the situation caused by the coronavirus epidemic, this decrease can be considered moderate.

In 2022, SME investment was 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. However, between 2021 and 2022, there was a sharp decline in new business loans. Interest rates for SMEs increased by 113% in 2022 compared to 2021 in reaction to high inflation and the unstable geopolitical and economic situation.

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. Although, the situation in this area was improving until 2021, it reversed in 2022 in reaction to the geopolitical and economic turmoil. The 2022 SAFE Survey by ECB states that the share of SMEs in the Czech Republic, which mention the access to finance as being no obstacle, decreased from 47% in 2021 to 37% in 2022. 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 (49%), bank loans (40%) and leasing (48%). So far, venture capital financing is relevant for only 2% of companies. In terms of the use of financing, between 2020 and 2022, investment in the development of new products or services has slightly decreased (from 25% to 22%). Most sources of finance are intended to finance either fixed investments or inventories and working capital. The share of companies that have stated that costs for materials and energy have increased rose dramatically from 2020 to 2022 (from 30% to 88%).

Alternative sources of financing include venture capital, angel investments, bond issuance, crowdfunding and state support. 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 was underdeveloped compared to similarly sized EU economies for a long time. There was a lack of willingness to invest in the early stages of business development (pre-seed, seed, start-up and later stage venture). Investments in these entities are 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. The situation changed drastically after three venture capital funds with public investments were established, and the venture capital supply in the Czech market is comparable to that of the other similarly sized EU economies. Venture capital and growth capital investments peaked in 2021, reaching EUR 751 million. In 2022, there was a drop of 63%, which may be due in part to incomplete data. The market for angel investments is barely visible and fragmented. However, the situation for innovators in the idea or start-up phase is still complicated. Consequently, the Czech government plans to establish another 3 pre-seed and spin-off co-investment funds in 2023.

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 (OP TAC), with a total allocation of CZK 81.5 billion. In 2021, the National Recovery Plan (NRP) was established, drawing its sources from the Recovery and Resilience Facility and offering CZK 191 billion to finance post-pandemic recovery. Government support for SMEs and entrepreneurs primarily consists of measures in the areas of investment 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.

There are several financing 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 government loans (EXPANZE). Most common are, however, direct grants. These are awarded from calls launched by OP TAC and NRP.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

In 2021, not counting non-employer enterprises, SMEs accounted for 98.7% of all enterprises and 38.7% of all full-time employees in Denmark.

New lending to SMEs from financial institutions increased from DKK 50 billion to 57 billion between 2021 and 2022, representing a 14% increase. The 2022 level was slightly higher than the average in the period 2014-2022. The share of new SME lending compared to total new lending was 7.35% in 2022, which is below the average of 10.43% in the period 2014-2022.

Interest rates for SMEs as well as for large firms had been steadily declining since 2008 until a few years back. The interest rates for SMEs have been increasing each year since 2019 from 1.85% to 2.72% in 2022, resulting in a widening interest rate spread. The 2022 interest rate spread reached 1.16 percentage-points, up from 0.78 percentage-points in 2019 ascribed to a slight increase each year.

Venture and growth capital financing from Danish private equity firms increased in 2021 and 2022 and reached a record high level of EUR 1224 million in 2022. The overall increase results from an increase in growth capital as venture investments experienced a 52% decrease from the high level of 2021 to 2022. The 2022 levels of venture and growth capital were significantly higher than any year between 2010 and 2020.

Average payment delays increased over the last 3 years and stood at their highest level for the period 2014-2022, at 14 days in 2022. The number of bankruptcies among SMEs increased from 1 768 in 2021 to 2 351 in 2022, explained in part by the phasing out of the COVID-19 support schemes.

In 2022, government loan guarantees decreased from DKK 2.260 billion in 2021 to 1 542 million, and government guaranteed loans decreased from DKK 2.478 billion in 2021 to 1.780 billion in 2022.

On 1 January 2023 the Export and Investment Fund of Denmark (EIFO) was established through a merger of three previous state funds: The Growth Fund, Denmark’s Green Investment Fund and EKF Denmark’s Export Credit Agency. EIFO provides a single point of access for Danish companies requiring government financing and aims to improve growth in a green way.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

In 2021, Estonian SMEs employed 81% of the workforce. In 2020 they accounted for 80.5% of total value added, and in 2021 for 82.1% of total value added. In 2021, 94% of all enterprises were micro-enterprises, i.e. companies with less than 10 employees. Micro-enterprises employed 31.7% of the workforce and accounted for 31.5% of total value added in 2021.

Since 2021, outstanding business loans to SMEs have been increasing after a previous decline. 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 been increasing, reaching 3.28% in 2018 and 4.08% in 2020. Interest rates had a slight decrease in 2021, at 3.75%, but reached 4.08% in 2022. For larger loans, the interest rate also moved upward to 3.44% in 2022. In 2020, the interest rate spread reached a high for the last decade at 1.31%, but decreased to 0.65% in 2022.

Venture and growth capital have been growing steadily in recent years but had a rapid growth in 2021. Estonia has a well-developed start-up community that has good potential for raising venture capital. In 2021 companies raised EUR 962 million, a 112% year-on-year growth rate. In 2022 companies raised EUR 1 302 million, a 35% year-on-year growth.

Leasing and hire purchases turnover declined sharply during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 but increased again reaching EUR 805 million in 2022.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-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 growth rate has gradually recovered since, at 3.0% in 2021 and 2.1% in 2022.

Due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, the Finnish Government supported companies in 2021 with EUR one billion in direct support (grants), a loan scheme of EUR 258 million and a guarantee scheme of EUR 301 million. Of all direct support paid due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 71% went to service sectors. By size category, EUR 297 million of support was paid to micro-enterprises, EUR 524 million to small enterprises, EUR 138 million to medium-sized enterprises and EUR 41 million to large enterprises. A total of 37,921 companies received some type of support due to the pandemic in the year 2021.

A total of 57,970 companies received COVID-19 subsidies in 2020 and 2021, to which EUR 2,278.9 million were paid, i.e. approximately 39,300 euros per recipient. There were a total of 59 016 companies that received some kind of COVID-19 support in 2020 and 2021 (including loans and guarantees). If we add to this figure the non-employers, the number of companies that received some kind of COVID-19 support comes to about 106,100 companies.

For the first months of 2022, the outlook for SMEs had clearly improved after the pandemic, and economic expectations rose strongly. However, the situation changed rapidly as, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the prospects for investment and private consumption weakened due to prolonged and accelerated price increases, decreases in foreign trade, and increased uncertainty. The exceptional situation is directly reflected in the outlook for small and medium-sized enterprises for short-term economic development. As a result, expectations fell sharply.

SMEs are expected to significantly reduce their investments in the near future. With the exception of manufacturing, in all main industries, there is a larger share of companies reducing rather than increasing their investments. The weak development of investment expectations is linked to the exceptionally high uncertainty about the continuation of the war, the rise in interest rates and the rate of economic growth. Even though GDP growth was 2.1% in 2022, the growth rate was 3.0% in 2021.

The outstanding business loans reached a record-high level in 2022 (in total EUR 100 billion). The new business lending was also a record-high, totalling EUR 45 billion. The volume of new lending to SMEs, however, decreased in 2022 in comparison to the years 2016 – 2020. The SMEs received around EUR 8 billion in new loans in year 2022 (the figure was EUR 9.8 billion in 2020 and EUR 8.1 billion in 2021). The share of new SME lending was 17.9%, the lowest level since year 2010 (15.6%).

The average interest rate for SMEs was 3.17% in 2022 (2.02% in 2020). The average interest rate charged from large companies was instead 1.88% in 2022, in comparison to 1.19% in 2021. The interest rate for large companies was at higher level last time in 2014 (1.96%). The credit spread between small and large business loans indicates a tightening of credit terms for SMEs compared to large enterprises. The interest rate spread was 1.29% in 2022, 0.94% in 2021 while it was 0.66% in 2020.

The structure of corporate finance is changing very slowly. Bank-centricity is still common in the financing of SMEs, although it has decreased. Public actors like Business Finland and ELY centers have maintained their position as the most important options for bank loans together with Finnvera. Especially, growth-oriented companies applied for funding from Business Finland and venture capitalists (SME-barometer 2/20221).pl

Average B2B 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. Since the harsh first COVID year of 2020 the situation has improved significantly, with payment delays falling to 10 days in 2022. However, payment periods are still twice as long as they were in 2015 -2018.

The number of bankruptcies decreased markedly by 19% in 2020 from the previous year. Part of the decline is explained by the temporary amendment of the bankruptcy law (1 May 2020), which prevented bankruptcies of those enterprises whose financial difficulties would most likely be temporary due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. In 2022, the number of bankruptcies has returned to the pre- COVID-19 pandemic level, totalling 2 666.

Finnish startups have once again raised a record amount of funding. The amount invested increased by almost half a billion from the previous year, totalling EUR 1.8 billion in 2022. The amount of funding raised by Finnish startups has increased tenfold in the last ten years. There have been especially great leaps in the last four years, and the long-term development has also been positive.

1. The SME Barometer is published twice a year by the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, Finnvera and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

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.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

As of June 2023, 99.7% of active enterprises in Georgia were SMEs1. In 2022 SMEs accounted for 60.1% of business sector employment, 34.5% of business sector turnover and 51.4% of output in the business sector.

In recent years, credit to SMEs rose significantly, amounting to a staggering 412.5% increase from GEL 1 400 million in 2010 to GEL 7 174 million in 2022.2 Throughout this period, total business loans grew by more than 261%, and the proportion of SME loans as a percentage of total business loans grew from 33.8% to 48%. In 2021 and 2022, credit to SMEs increased by 15.2% and 7.5%, while total business loans increased by 11.1% in 2021 and decreased by 0.1% in 2022. Accordingly, the share of SME loans in business loans increased to 44.53% in 2021 and to 47.94% in 2022.

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. Because of financial tightening interest rates rose to 9.9% in 2021 and 11% in 2022. Also from 2018, the interest rate spread has shown a declining trend. The interest rate spread was 0.76 percentage points in 2021 and 0.14 percentage points in 2022.

In 2022, the overall volume of non-performing SME loans amounted to GEL 659 million (a decrease of 12% with respect to 2021). Despite a significant decrease in non-performing loans, the amount is still higher than it was before the pandemic. The share of non-performing SMEs loans is now at 5.3% (1.2 p.p. decrease from the last year).

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 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, training 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.

1. According to the methodology introduced by the Georgian National Statistics Office in 2016 to gather statistics on the country’s SMEs and in pursuant of the National Strategy of SME development.

2. Figures are inflation-adjusted, with 2010 as the base year.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

German SMEs have felt the burden of the pandemic, but generally they have come through the crisis years with few bruises. Rapid adjustments to business models and, above all, strong growth in digital sales of products and services have often proved to be lifesaver and prevented worse outcomes (KfW, 2021[4]).

Despite all the coronavirus worries, 2021 was a very good year for SMEs. Seemingly unimpressed by the pandemic, sales and employment returned and employment returned to pre-crisis levels.

At the start of 2022, businesses confronted the current crisis on a solid foundation (KfW, 2022[5]). Even as the burdens from the pandemic are easing, the economic situation has worsened as a consequence of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The escalation of the conflict has led to enormous uncertainty.

The impact of the war, in combination with directly and indirectly perceivable consequences of sanctions (such as loss of export markets, energy price increases, rising inflation, supply chain disruptions and production losses), has been afflicting many businesses (KfW, 2022[5]). Despite all stress factors, the damage to SMEs is still moderate.

However, the economic outlook for 2024 is muted, prospects for investment and turnover are dim and, not least, businesses are feeling the implications of tighter monetary policy (KfW, 2023[6]).

It became apparent already at the end of the last year that the situation in the credit market was becoming more difficult for businesses. They reported that banks were taking an increasingly restrictive position in loan negotiations (KfW, 2023[6]).

To some extent, this reflects the now higher interest rate environment, which companies might perceive as more restrictive lending. But banks are also applying more conservative lending criteria, reflecting the current economic uncertainty. There is, however, no sign of a credit crunch, and banks have sufficient surplus capital and enough lending capacity to finance German SMEs.

The task now is to support SMEs in the transformation to more sustainability and climate protection, which requires massive investments in the decarbonisation of our economy. For this purpose, the differentiated range of funding from the ERP Special Fund is available and is constantly being further developed.

The ERP Special Fund [ERP: European Recovery Program] provides a differentiated and well-established system of promotional loan instruments for different start-up phases. The KfW promotional loans have been established on the market for several decades and are available with attractive conditions for financing investments, including investments in climate-neutral and digital transformation. The German government supports SMEs with its credit-based ERP funding instruments, which are open to all business sectors. These programmes are passed on to the final borrowers by the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), the Federal Promotional Bank, via the house banks (private banks, cooperative banks savings banks). Various programmes cover the investment and working capital needs of newly established and established SMEs (up to 500 million euros turnover).

In order to provide SMEs with the best possible support in the period after the Corona pandemic and in the transformation to a sustainable and digital economy, the promotional programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises were restructured at the beginning of 2022:

The ERP Start-Up Loan-StartGeld (ERP-Gründerkredit-StartGeld) is available for start-ups, freelancers and small businesses that have been active on the market for less than five years and require little start-up capital.

Small and medium-sized enterprises ERP-SME-Promotional-Loan (ERP-Förderkredit KMU) and larger SMEs KfW-Promotional-Loan-For-Large-Mid-Sized Companies (KfW-Förderkredit großer Mittelstand) now each have their own promotional programme for financing projects as well as start-ups and company takeovers. The improved conditions of the ERP and KfW promotional loan programmes allow SMEs to finance their projects at favourable and attractive conditions. Young enterprises and those in regional assisted areas continue to receive particularly strong support.

For companies affected by Russia's attack on Ukraine or the sanctions against Russia and Belarus, the KfW Special Programme UBR (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia) 2022 (KfW-Sonderprogramm UBR) 2022 was available until 31 December 2023.

Innovation and digitization support in Germany include the ERP-Digitisation-and-Innovation-Loan (ERP-Digitalisierungs- und Innovationskredit) and the ERP-Mezzanine for Innovation (ERP-Mezzanine für Innovationen).

The KfW-Loan-for-Growth1 (KfW-Kredit für Wachstum), which supports larger projects in the area of innovation and digitalisation, including investments and working capital.

The KfW-Syndicated-Loan-Sustainable-Transformation (KfW-Konsortialkredit Nachhaltige Transformation) offers larger companies flexible financing for ambitious, sustainable and transformative measures that meet the technical criteria of the EU taxonomy.

INVEST grant for venture capital

INVEST is a funding programme of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate protection. It was launched in 2013 and further developed in 2017 and 2023 to support private investors who want to invest in young and innovative companies. Under this programme, business angels who invest in innovative start-ups receive an acquisition grant of 25% of the investment amount. The investor must provide at least EUR 10 000 to the company. A maximum of EUR 100 000 in acquisition grants is approved per investor. In addition, natural persons can receive a lump-sum tax compensation with the exit grant amounting to 25 % of the profit made from the sale of his/her shares supported with the acquisition grant. The exit grant is limited to 25% of the investment amount of the INVEST shares, and the shares must be held for at least three years.

KfW Capital

As 100% subsidiary of KfW Group, KfW Capital invests in German and European venture capital and venture debt funds since its establishment in October 2018, thereby strengthening the funds’ capital base. The aim of KfW Capital is to improve access to capital for innovative technology-oriented growth companies in Germany through financially strong funds. KfW Capital has doubled the annual amount of funding to EUR 400 million from 2021 onwards. Funding takes place 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’ (Future Fund).

ERP-Financing-Instruments in cooperation with the European Investment Fund (EIF)

ERP Special Fund and EIF have been cooperating very successfully in the field of equity and mezzanine financing for nearly twenty years. This makes an important contribution to ensuring that innovative start-ups in Germany have access to capital. The financing instruments include, amongst others, the ERP/EIF Venture Capital Fund of Funds with a total fund volume of EUR 3.7 billion.

Zukunftsfonds (Future Fund)

The ‘Zukunftsfonds’, set up by the Federal Government in 2021, is providing EUR 10 billion until the end of 2030 for a venture capital fund for forward-looking technologies (‘Future Fund’) at the KfW to foster the German venture capital market. Factoring in the contributions from private together with public-sector partners, the 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, 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 various 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 as well as the development of new modules to increase start-up funding. Within the Future Fund, the ERP/Future Fund Growth Facility, with a total of EUR 2.5 billion, as well as the GFF-EIF Growth Facility, with a volume of up to EUR 3.5 billion, increase fund volumes and facilitate larger financing rounds for the period up to 2030. In 2023 the European Tech Champions Initiative has been launched with a total fund size of up to EUR 3.75 billion to tackle the European scale-up gap; Germany is contributing EUR 1 billion alongside the EIB-Group and several contribution Member States. A fund of funds for growth capital (Growth Fund for Germany) aims in particular to mobilise capital of institutional investors for start-ups. The KfW programme Venture Tech Growth Financing (VTGF) was expanded in 2022 with a volume of up to EUR 1.3 billion to strengthen the area of venture debt in Germany. The DeepTech & Climate Fund (up to EUR 1 billion) directly invests into deep tech and climate tech start-ups together with private investors. Since 2023 it has invested in several start-ups.

With the launch of the EUR 1 billion fund-of-funds “Wachstumsfonds Deutschland”, a key module of the Future Fund to provide institutional investors with attractive investment opportunities in the Venture Capital asset class has been realized. It is funded primarily by private resources. Besides the Federal Government and KfW Capital as anchor investors, the fund has more than 20 major institutional investors including insurers, superannuation funds, foundations, asset managers and large family offices. The Wachstumsfonds Deutschland invests in German and international VC funds. This will significantly improve access to urgently needed growth capital for start-ups and innovative technology firms while strengthening Europe and Germany as an innovation location.

Further instruments and components of the Future Fund have been implemented throughout the year 2023, e.g. improving the access to venture capital for female founders and investors with the Emerging Manager Facility. Under this programme, KfW Capital is investing in smaller private venture capital (VC) funds managed by women or gender-diverse teams. These teams are often very young first-time entrants to the VC market (“emerging managers”. Overall, EUR 200 million is available from the Future Fund for the new programme until 2030.

Furthermore, HTGF Growth Facility with a volume of EUR 660 million will be launched as a co-investment fund to provide additional growth capital to particularly promising companies in the investment portfolio of the HTGF Seed Funds (HTGF I to IV), and RegioInnoGrowth will address start-ups and SMEs which are typically not addressed by venture capital funds.

High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF)

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 the market situation for the product must be bright. 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 4 million usually being available per company. In February 2023 the fourth fund, HTGF IV, with a volume of EUR 493.8 million was closed.

Mikromezzaninfonds # Micro-Mezzanine Fund

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 of 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 persons 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.

1.This programme is to be renamed "KfW -Syndicated-Loan-Innovation and Digitalisation" in the near future.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

During 2021 and 2022, economic activity rebounded significantly, covering most of the lost ground from the pandemic shock. Real GDP increased by 8.4% in 2021 after shrinking by around 9% in 2020. This strong growth trend continued in 2022 during which real GDP grew by 5.9%. This is mainly due to private consumption, a significant increase in investments and the recovery of tourism. The uptick in investments in 2022 is related to a significant increase in new business lending, which almost doubled in 2022 after a decade of relatively low volume and a decrease of 26.8% in 2021 vis-à-vis 2020. Still, new lending to SMEs grew proportionally less, by 35%, compared to an impressive 87% increase in new loans for all firms’ sizes. As a result, the share of SMEs in new loans dropped to 20.5%, down from 28.3% in 2021.

However, despite the economic recovery and the increase in new lending, outstanding credit to all businesses in 2022 remains below the level of 2020. 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.

As a result of ECB monetary policy tightening, interest rates for both SMEs and large firms increased in 2022, after a downward trend that lasted for nine years. Interest rates climbed to 4.28% for large firms and to 3.23% for SMEs. The spread between the two decreased marginally by 0.05 but remains above 1% for the third year in a row.

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), which documents increased collateral requirements for more firms and an increase in loan rejection rate for Greek SMEs in 2022.

The percentage of SME non-performing loans was 9.18% in 2022 and has declined for the eighth year in a row since 2016 when it reached 43.2%. This decline is explained by public programmes such as the Hercules Programme that assists commercial banks in securitising and removing NPLs from their balance sheets. Accordingly, 5.63% of all business loans were non-performing in Greece in 2022.

In 2022, alternative sources of finance were in a small decline in Greece and remained at low volumes in general. Venture capital financing amounted to EUR 325 million, which represented a decrease of 35% compared to 2021. It should be noted though, that 2021 was an exceptional year with EUR 500 million of total volume in funding, and that the equity finance ecosystem in Greece exhibits a general growth trend since it started from a relative low volume. This positive trend is evident if we take in to account the 2020 funding volume, which was merely EUR 150 million, but nevertheless constitutes a quadrupling from the 2016 volume of EUR 38 million. Factoring increased significantly to EUR 2.98 billion compared to EUR 2.37 billion in 2021. Leasing and hire purchase activities increased slightly, reaching EUR 2.7 billion compared to EUR 2.5 billion in 2017.

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”. 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, while at the third cycle the cap rate for micro enterprises loan portfolio was set at 60%. The total Fund resources reached EUR 2 million. 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. As a result, the Fund reached an amortised amount of EUR 6.4 million by the end of 2022, during an operation period of two years.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

According to the preliminary data of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, at the end of 2021, 892 106 enterprises operated in Hungary, 99,89% of which (891 137 enterprises) qualified as SMEs. Hungarian SMEs make up 75% of total employment and generated 61% of value added.

The COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 created a protracted international crisis situation, which had an impact on the Hungarian economic ecosystem.

The rapid economic growth after the coronavirus crisis ended with a sharp downturn. In February of 2022, the large-scale aggression of Russia against Ukraine escalated in the region’s vicinity, causing another crisis for the Hungarian economy. As a result of the war, SMEs have to deal with drastically increased energy costs, shortages of basic and raw materials, rising transport costs, regulatory changes, and value chain disruptions. The energy bill increased from EUR 6.8 billion to EUR 16.6 billion.

In 2022, even under such unforeseen circumstances, the level of employment activity and the dynamics of the economy were maintained. The unemployment rate fell to 3.6% compared to 6.2% in the EU. Peak employment was registered in September, with 4.7 million: people employed, which represented an increase of 60,000 people compared to the same period in the previous year and exceeds the employment level in 2019 before the outbreak of COVID.

The gross investment rate of non-financial corporations, which is the gross fixed capital formation divided by gross value added in 2021 and 2022 was between 33% and 35% respectively, which is high compared to the values of other EU member states. In 2022, a record amount of EUR 7 billion of foreign capital (FDI) flowed into the country, and it was expected to reach up to EUR 10 billion in 2023.

Despite all the negative effects that were caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the energy crisis and the significant increase of inflation, not experienced for decades, the Hungarian GDP grew by 4.6% in 2022. This value equates to growth 1.2 percentage points higher than the EU average.

Growth was supported by strong performance in the construction sector, expanding retail sales and the strong performance of the majority of service sectors.

The stock of foreign direct investment capital in Hungary peaked according to the Global Innovation Index Report. The net FDI inflows in ratio of the GDP increased to 61% by the end of 2022, which is a strong value in the European Union.

The 14% annual growth rate of Hungarian banks’ outstanding corporate loans was the fourth highest when compared to other EU countries. Based on preliminary data, outstanding loans to the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise segment expanded by 13% year on year, with significant continued support from the Széchenyi Card Programme (SCP). The average interest rate on market-based corporate loans was generally in line with the rise in interest rates. In 2022 the interest rate was 10.99% for SMEs and 11.18% for large firms.

A rise in demand for foreign currency loans as well as for short-term loans was seen in this period.

Central banks reacted to the high inflation caused by the war with high interest rates, which had a negative impact on corporate lending. The high interest rates dried up credit markets and justified targeted, stimulative lending by the state. The Government's Széchenyi Card Programme MAX+ and the Baross Gábor Loan Programme supported the SME sector's access to credit financing through state-subsidised loan and guarantee schemes. The state-subsidised loan schemes are typically available at an annual interest rate of 5-6%, while market loans can have interest rates of up to 20%. As part of the fight against soaring interest rates and energy prices, the Government introduced an interest freeze on retail loans, which could help more than 60 000 SMEs. The interest freeze was implemented on November 2022 until December 2023.

Overall, the data suggests a mixed picture for the private equity and venture capital market in Hungary. While there was a decline in the total number of companies receiving investments (from 255 in 2021 to 198 in 2022), there was a significant increase in the total investment amount (from EUR 174.5 million in 2021 to EUR 220.1 million in 2022). The substantial increase in total investment suggests that despite the decrease in the number of companies, there was a focus on backing high-potential companies and making larger investments. This is especially notable in the buyout category, where the investment amount increased significantly from EUR 18.129 million in 2021 to EUR 63.076 million in 2022.

The growth in start-up investments and VC-backed growth capital also indicates continued interest in supporting early-stage and scaling companies in Hungary. This suggests that investors and venture capitalists are still optimistic about the potential for growth and innovation within the start-up ecosystem. Additionally, the decrease in the number of companies receiving investments could be reflective of a more selective investment approach or consolidation within the market.

A decrease in new funds raised may indicate a potential slowdown in private equity and venture capital activity within the country. It could suggest a decrease in investor confidence or reduced interest in funding startups and growth-stage companies.

The National Capital Holding was registered in November 2022 and started its operations on 1 January 2023. It oversees the operation of the Holding’s funds: the MFB Invest Zrt., the EXIM Invest Zrt. and their subsidiaries and implements new economic stimulative programmes such as the Baross Gábor Capital Programme.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

SMEs accounted for 99.8% of all active enterprises in Ireland in 2021. They also accounted for 60.1% of total persons employed. Over half of all SMEs (55.9%) in the Irish business economy in 2020 were in the services sector.

Total SME bank debt has fallen from EUR 60 billion in 2010 to EUR 18.4 billion in 2022. Much of the decline can be attributed to SMEs’ deleveraging real estate-related debt since the great financial crisis (GFC).

Gross new lending to core SMEs (all non-financial and non-property related sectors) was EUR 3 billion in 2022. This reflected a year-on-year increase of EUR 102 million, marking the largest year-on-year increase in almost three years. Survey data from the SME Credit Demand Survey show that SMEs in Ireland are choosing to access bank credit less. For 79% of SMEs, having sufficient internal funds was the reason for not seeking credit.

Loan approval rates are broadly unchanged, with 90% of all applications for the period April – September 2022 (excluding “still pending”) either being fully or partially approved.

The interest rate on new SME loan drawdowns increased by 112 basis points over the quarter and now stands at 5.23%. Rates on new SME loans increased across all sectors over the quarter and over the year to Q4 2022.

The Government of Ireland has implemented a range of measures to assist SMEs, including primary producers, in dealing with the rising costs of energy, together with an increased inflationary environment, as a consequence of the conflict in Ukraine. In January 2023, the Ukraine Credit Guarantee Scheme worth EUR 1.2 billion was launched. This is aimed at providing low-cost working capital to SMEs, primary producers, and small mid-caps, and is available through a growing number of lenders which include banks and credit unions. In September, the EUR 500 million Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme was launched, with the aim of providing longer-term lending. Loans under these schemes are currently available through two of the main banks, with other lenders expected to take part in the scheme. Prior to that, in July 2022, the SME Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme (EELS) was launched under the Climate Action Plan. Its purpose is to assist SMEs, including primary producers, to invest in the energy efficiency of their enterprises. This scheme will close for applications at the end of 2023. The Government introduced a Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme in 2023 to assist businesses with the increase in cost of their electricity bills. The Government also introduced the Business Users Support Scheme for Kerosene for businesses that were impacted by the increased cost of Kerosene during 2022.

Since commencement of its lending in March 2015, Ireland’s national promotional bank, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) is working 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 and investment schemes, such as;

  • Credit Guarantee Scheme;

  • Brexit Loan Scheme;

  • Brexit Impact Loan Scheme;

  • the COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme;

  • the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme;

  • the Future Growth Loan Scheme;

  • SME Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme

  • Ukraine Credit Guarantee Scheme;

  • Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme.

Currently, the last three schemes listed above are open for loan applications.

The overriding objective of these schemes is to provide flexible funding for those firms that require it. More details on these schemes are provided in the full country profile.

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

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

As of 2022, there were 660 000 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 40 000 closed down formally, with another 5 000-10 000 becoming 'silent' businesses, waiting for economic or personal development. In 2021, 64 825 new companies were established and 40 192 were closed. Removal of government support measures might result in many enterprises shutting down in the post-crisis period. In 2022 the record was broken with 71 006 new businesses according to the Central Bureau of Statistic.

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).

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of the business community, accounting for a large share of value added and employment.

The Italian economy experienced a more subdued expansion in 2022 after the sharp recovery of the previous year, which made up for two-thirds of the exceptional contraction that occurred during the pandemic. GDP growth was weighed down by heightened uncertainty following the large-scale aggression of Russia against Ukraine, rising energy and food prices, and the shift towards tighter monetary policy.

Weak cyclical conditions swiftly affected credit markets: lending to SMEs came to a halt and eventually declined at a sustained pace, ending a period of expansion fuelled by support measures adopted during the pandemic. In early 2023, loans to large enterprises also began to contract slightly.

After remaining broadly relaxed during the pandemic, credit supply policies gradually tightened, partly as a result of banks’ higher perceived risk. Business borrowing rates rose, reflecting the process of monetary policy normalisation; however, collateral requirements remained stable and low by historical standards.

Credit quality remained good. The ratio of SME new non-performing loans to outstanding loans stood at a historically low level. The stock of non-performing exposures continued to decline, also as a result of the still high volume of disposals.

Equity financing for SMEs soared in the early-stage segment reached an unprecedented peak since 2007, also thanks to a very active institutional entity investing in young companies with high growth prospects. Conversely, after the upsurge recorded in 2021, expansion capital declined for both SMEs and large companies alike.

Business-to-business payment delays reached a 15-year low in 2022, after falling well below pre-pandemic levels in the previous year. The widespread decline of the indicator was more pronounced for micro firms than for SMEs and large enterprises.

After the increase observed in 2021, judicial liquidations started to fall again, well below the pre-pandemic values, partly thanks to firm support measures and economic recovery. The Business Crisis and Insolvency Code finally entered into force in July 2022, with the aim of better tackling corporate crises.

Financial support measures, introduced or stepped up in recent years, continued to help firms cope with the heightened uncertainty surrounding the macroeconomic developments.

Credit guarantee schemes, which have traditionally played a key role in facilitating SME access to finance, were strengthened during the pandemic. The preferential programme for the granting of public guarantees by the Central Guarantee Fund and SACE was extended several times.

In application of the European Commission’s Temporary Crisis Framework for State aid measures in support of the economy following Russia’s war against Ukraine, further measures were introduced to address firms’ liquidity needs, including a new regulation on public guarantees until the end of 2022, providing for the granting of the Central Guarantee Fund and SACE guarantees to companies hit by a contraction of activity due to the consequences of the war, and an increase in the coverage of the Fund’s guarantees for financing aimed at improving the efficiency or diversification of energy production or consumption.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

Japanese SMEs accounted for 99.7% of all businesses and employed 33 million individuals, approximately 69.7% of the private sector labour force in 2021.

Lending to SMEs declined continuously between 2007 and 2012, with a total decrease of 6.6% over that period. In 2013, the volume of outstanding SME loans shifted upward and has increased consistently since then: JPY 323.6 trillion in 2021 and JPY 335.9 trillion in 2022.

Average interest rates on new short-term loans in Japan have been very low and declined further between 2007 and 2022, falling from 1.64% to nearly a quarter of that amount (0.42%) because of the policy of monetary easing. Long-term interest rates on new loans followed a broadly similar pattern, more than halving from 1.73% in 2007 to 0.78% in 2022.

Japanese venture capital investments peaked at JPY 193 billion in FY2007, before decreasing by 29.5% and 36.0% in FY2008 and FY2009, respectively. After fluctuating for the following five years, the volume of VC investments started to increase in 2015. Since then, VC investments have been on a rapid rise, except for a sharp drop amid the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and reached their highest value of JPY 341 billion in FY2021. The Government of Japan endeavours to increase the number and scale of startups.

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 JPY 2.7 trillion in 2019. More recently, the amount of leasing decreased to JPY 2.1 trillion in 2021 and rose slightly to JPY 2.2 trillion in 2022.

SME bankruptcies, which account for more than 99% of all bankruptcies in Japan, decreased from 15,500 in 2008 to 6000 in 2021. With COVID-19 financing support measures, the number of SME bankruptcies was curbed at approximately 6,000 in 2021, the lowest level over the last 57 years, before experiencing an increase of 6.6% in 2022.

Total non-performing business loans have declined continuously since FY2013, after having experienced erratic movement over the FY2007-12 period. In FY2019, total NPLs decreased to JPY 10.3 trillion, followed by increases to JPY 11.5 trillion in FY2020 and 12.6 trillion in FY2021.

The Japanese Government offers financial support for SMEs in the form of credit guarantees and direct loans. In 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, government-affiliated and private financial institutions provided interest-free and unsecured loans. As of March 2022, the total amount of outstanding SME loans was approximately JPY 314 trillion (provided by domestically licensed banks and credit associations); the outstanding amount of the credit guarantee programme was JPY 41.9 trillion (covering 1.58 million SMEs); and the outstanding amount of the direct loan programme was JPY 29.8 trillion, (covering 1.33 million of Japan’s 3.58 million SMEs).

While the Japanese economy continued to recover moderately from the COVID-19 crisis, its growth rate in FY2022 was 1.4%, affected by the global energy and food price hikes and the global economic slowdown. GDP growth is projected at 1.3% in FY2023 as of July 2023, attributed to a recovery in personal consumption, including service consumption, and an increase in corporate capital investment, although a slowdown in exports is expected to put downward pressure on the economy.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.

In 2022, SMEs made up 96.9% of all businesses in Kazakhstan. The share of people employed by SMEs was 45.8% of the total employed population. SMEs contributed 36.5% to the country’s GDP that same year.

SME lending was on the rise in Kazakhstan since 2014 up to 2017. In 2017-2019 the SME loan portfolio was showing a negative trend. In 2022 the SME loan portfolio increased by 20.1%. At the same time, new lending to SMEs increased by 16.4% over the last year. Due to the fact that the portfolio of loans to SMEs increased, the share of loans to SMEs in the total portfolio of business loans also grew to 34.1%. The increase in lending dynamics is largely due to a significant improvement in the operating environment, relaxed quarantine restrictions, the offer of new products, and the development of digital channels and ecosystems.

Interest rates for SMEs have fluctuated over the last years, growing steadily from a record low of 11.5% in 2014 to 14% in 2016. In 2022, the rate was 17.2%, while that of large enterprises was 15.9%. This growth is due to the increase in the base rate by the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Among non-bank sources of finance, leasing has the largest market and is steadily growing. In 2021, leasing and hire purchases were almost 8 times higher than their 2010 level. The development of leasing and the growth of its indicators is due to several reasons. First, there is a growing need for industrial, transport and agricultural enterprises to update and expand the fleet of machinery and equipment. Second, many enterprises have problems providing collateral for loans from STB, while leasing companies are more flexible in their collateral policy. Third, the procedure for making lease payments is one of the biggest advantages of leasing. The agreement may optimally take into account the interests of all parties, since the size and period of payments are determined on the basis of a joint agreement.

Non-performing loans (NPL) with arrears of more than 90 days in banks’ portfolio among both total loans and SME loans slightly increased in 2022 from 3.3% to 3.4%. Commercial banks fulfil requirements of the National Bank of Kazakhstan concerning maximum appropriate NPL level of no more than 10% of the total loan portfolio.

An important role in maintaining SMEs’ access to lending is played by the state, which places funds in commercial banks to provide concessional lending to SMEs during shortages of liquidity in the market. The largest placement of state funds for SME lending took place in 2018. The main part of loans was allocated in 2014-2016 to support SMEs in the manufacturing industry at a rate of 6% per annum, which are issued by banks on a revolving basis.

Since 2010, the government, through “Damu” Entrepreneurship Development Fund, has provided subsidizing of interest rate expense and loan guarantees for SMEs under the “Business Roadmap” Programme. A new financial instrument in Kazakhstan, loan guarantees are becoming popular very quickly, escalating from just three guarantees in 2010 to 50 789 guarantees at the end of 2022.

The full country profile is available at: https://doi.org/10.1787/fa521246-en.