28 Jun 2021

Covid-19: Government business finance guarantee ending

5:30 pm on 28 June 2021

The government's business finance guarantee ends on Wednesday after supporting nearly 3500 businesses.

New Zealand dollars

Photo: 123RF

The scheme was set up in response to the pandemic to help small- to medium-sized firms access up to $5 million of credit for cashflow, capital assets and various other projects.

The lending was administered by retail banks but 80 percent of the total size of the loan was guaranteed by the Crown.

As of 22 June, $2.8 billion had been lent to 3363 borrowers.

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the scheme had been useful for firms but it was not without its challenges.

"In the early days of the scheme, banks and government were still negotiating terms and it wasn't particularly clear to borrowers whether they will be able to access it," Hope said.

The scheme got off to a slow start when it was first introduced, with only $150m lent to about 780 customers in August.

This prompted the goverment to make changes to the scheme to make it more accessible to a wider range of businesses which included raising the debt cap from $500,000 to $5m, and increasing the term limit from three to five years.

"Once a range of those things were clarified for businesses I think the scheme became easier to understand and therefore to access through the banking sector," Hope said.

Demand for credit was highest by firms in the wholesale trade industry, followed by the retail and construction sectors.

Hope said disruptions to supply chains, both globally and domestically, had created a demand for capital for firms operating in retail and wholesale trade.

More than a third of all loans were accessed by businesses in Auckland, with about 14 percent and 10 percent of lending going to Canterbury and the Waikato regions respectively.

Firms often wanted to have cash on hand to accelerate out of the various lockdowns, Hope said.

New Zealand Bankers Association chief executive Roger Beaumont said the scheme was just one of a number of ways the financial sector helped their business customers through the pandemic.

"Depending on the customer's circumstances, banks also offered to reduce loan repayments, temporarily deferred all repayments, extended the term of loans, consolidated loans, and provided access to short-term funding," he said.

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