| 12.5°C Dublin

ECB says debt costs for Irish business up

A QUARTER of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Ireland reported an increase in bank lending rates in the six months to the end of March, according to a survey from the European Central Bank (ECB).

A separate study commissioned by the Department of Finance for the same period concluded that fewer loans were being approved with conditions attached, but that the interest rates for approved credit were also falling.

The ECB study said that between October and March, the income and debt situation of Eurozone businesses improved slightly on balance compared with the previous six months.

But developments across firms' size and countries remained considerably diverse.

Wide divergences remain across Eurozone countries concerning problems faced by SMEs.

Some 34pc of the SMEs in Greece, 15pc in Ireland and 15pc in the Netherlands named access to finance as the biggest problem they face, compared with only 7pc in Germany and Austria.

However, in Ireland and other countries, it is becoming less of an issue.

The biggest percentages of SMEs reporting that they did not apply for a loan owing to sufficient internal funds were recorded in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Austria.

The net percentage of SMEs reporting a decline in bank lending rates was most pronounced in Belgium, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Portugal.

By contrast, however, 25pc of SMEs in Ireland, 20pc in Greece and 1pc in Finland reported, on balance, an increase in bank lending rates.