Cash flow: companies back to pre-crisis levels

According to the latest barometer from Bpifrance Le Lab and Rexecode, dedicated to cash flow, investment and growth among VSEs and SMEs, the latter have returned to a cash flow situation close to that which prevailed prior to the health crisis. Even so, companies prefer to remain cautious, and are extending the repayment terms of their secured loans.

Cash flow and investment: rising indicators

Thesurvey conducted by Bpifrance Le Lab and Rexocode, the results of which were published on September 21, surveyed 2,107 SME/VSE managers between August 26 and September 6, 2021. A total of 649 VSEs and SMEs in the non-agricultural market sectors were analyzed.

First and foremost, the barometer reveals that the cash flow situation of VSEs and SMEs has improved since the previous quarter. Only 20% of companies surveyed still consider their cash position to be "difficult", the lowest proportion since 2017, the year the Bpifrance Le Lab and Rexocode barometer was created.

The cash flow trend indicator rose by 12 points, returning to a level close to that observed before the health crisis. The cash flow trend indicator also improved, with VSEs and SMEs generally confident about the future.

Investment intentions, another indicator of the good health of VSEs and SMEs, are also on the rise. 58% of managers intend to invest this year, one point more than in May 2021, and one point more than in September 2019.

As for conditions of access to credit for VSEs and SMEs, they remain "very favorable", in particular conditions relating to cash flow financing, which are increasingly flexible. 12% of business leaders surveyed said they were having difficulty financing their day-to-day operations, the lowest proportion since 2017.

On the other hand, the study reveals an increase since 2017 (+17%) in the proportion of VSEs and SMEs encountering difficulties in obtaining credit to finance their investments. They represent 20% of the companies surveyed.

State-guaranteed loans: companies remain cautious

When it comes to state-guaranteed loans (SGLs), the majority of companies surveyed - 60% - have used only a minority of the amount granted, or not at all. In detail, 37% had used little or none of their EWPs, and 23% had used a minority. 28% of VSEs and SMEs have used almost all of it, 7 points more than in April 2021.

Despite the improvement in their cash flow situation, and the use of a minority of the amounts granted, the vast majority of companies are cautious, preferring to extend repayment terms.

Thus, 84% of executives surveyed intend to amortize their EMP over several years, up 5 points on May 2021, while only 11% intend to repay their EMP in full this year. Only 5% of executives fear that they will not be able to repay their loan. Caution therefore remains the watchword for a large proportion of VSEs and SMEs.

Last but not least, recruitment difficulties have once again become, as they were before the health crisis, the main obstacle to growth according to the managers surveyed. 56% of them feel that recruitment difficulties are holding back their company's business, an increase of 21 points in one year.