Friday, 20 June 2014

The changing world of funding part 1

The striking feature of bank lending over the past few years has been the increase in asset backed lending and the decline in overdraft lending. Arguably, this has not necessarily been to the benefit of the customer who perceives overdraft facilities as flexible, and easy to use. Of course, on of the key reasons for the decline in overdraft lending has been the decline in the security available on overdrafts as a fixed charge over book debts (often the major realisable asset in a business) is no longer available.
Of course there is an argument to say that asset backed lending, particularly in the form of invoice discounting or invoice factoring, is appropriate for growing businesses. Whilst there will be a lending cap, such a facility enables the business to attract more funding as its turnover grows and as its debtor book (outstanding sales invoices) grows. Of course, the opposite is also true in that a decline in turnover will lead to a decline in funding. You may say that is not relevant if you have a young growing business, however, problems can arise if there are temporary dips in trade which may lead to short term losses that require funding, and asset backed lending can be seen as inflexible in such circumstances.
I the late 80's there were a number of American banks that entered the UK market who were not only prepared to fund debtors (at 70% - 90%) but also stock, commonly at around 50%. There were, and still are, a number of issues that surround the funding of stock. Some of the key issues are whether the business actually has title to the stock, since suppliers often have retention of title ROT clauses in their terms and conditions of sale. What these provide for is that the goods supplied remain theirs until such time as they are paid for. Often when one looks at the make up of stock within a business a large part of the raw material stocks will be covered by ROT clauses and these will be eliminated in a funders calculation of what they may be prepared to lend. Another key issue for a lending against stock is its likely realisable value in the event of a forced sale being required. With debtors where the contract has completed, but for payment, realisations should be high in the event of a business failing, since legally the customers would have no reasons for non-payment. However, the situation is very different in relation to stocks where any attempt to shift large quantities of finished goods will often require very significant discounts to be given to customers or other buyers of goods.
Before a business approaches a funder it is very important to understand the "art of the possible" and what is the appropriate funding mix (debt/equity) that is right for your business. Watch out for part 2 where we will discuss this further.

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