Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Bailout banks urged to open books

The report revealed more than one in four small and medium sized businesses have been turned down for a loan or overdraft
The report revealed more than one in four small and medium sized businesses have been turned down for a loan or overdraft

The Government has been urged to demand bailed-out banks open their books after a study claimed Ireland is second only to Greece in terms of refusing loans to small firms.

Business groups maintained the Central Bank survey backs their long-standing argument that access to finance is being denied to viable but vulnerable companies.

The report revealed more than one in four small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have been turned down for a loan or overdraft in the six months to March - double the eurozone average.

Mark Fielding, of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME), called on the Government to demand full and complete disclosure from bailed-out banks on lending.

"While Irish banks have been recapitalised with enormous fiscal injections, the truth of the matter is the bailed-out banks are not fixed, rescued bankers continue to utter untruths, banking reform is delayed and banking policy is turning good business bad," said Mr Fielding.

However, the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) rejected the report's findings and accused the Central Bank of pursuing a populous line.

IBF chief executive Pat Farrell said: "I can understand why sentiment towards banks is very negative because of the circumstance we find ourselves, but I would have expected more than a populous line from the Central Bank. I would reject the findings of the report because the definitive report on this area is the Mazars Report."

He said the Mazars Report, which was commissioned by the Department of Finance and examined 1,500 SMEs in the same period, established banks were meeting the demand from small businesses.

Alex White, of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, later revealed that it will consider the report when the Dail resumes after the summer recess.

"In the light of conflicting statements and reports on the incidence of bank lending to small businesses, I am proposing to hold committee hearings on this issue in order as far as possible to establish the true position," he said. "It is striking that the Central Bank report has been so flatly rejected by the banking industry, and there is a need to get to the bottom of this controversy."

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