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Crucial six months ahead for SME sector

Decisions taken in the next six months will impact the small and medium enterprise sector for the next five years, according to a treasury specialist who works closely with the sector.

John Finn, Managing Director of Treasury Solutions – which helps businesses deal with a range of issues including cash flow, lending and currency management – said there were a number of risks ahead for the sector at a crucial time for the survival of many firms as they deal with the fallout from Covid-19.

“The first is the formation of a new government. You need it to pass legislation for a loan guarantee scheme,” John Finn said.

“The second is a hard Brexit (if trade talks collapse) and the third is a second wave of the virus, which we will get,” he said.

“The timing of that prior to the conclusion of Brexit talks is an added complication. What we see is a need for a coordinated macro move by government with the SME sector to weather the next six months,” he added.

John Finn warned businesses that they would have to ‘dust down their hard-Brexit plans’ once again as the UK insists that it will not be seeking an extension to the end-year deadline for concluding trade talks.

“It’s the last thing they want to hear now as they’re dealing with Covid, but it remains a risk. This is where the state is going to have to come in with a concerted effort in the coming months.”

The reluctance of the UK to seek an extension to the negotiating deadline on a trade deal has seen sterling move back over 90 pence to the euro in recent days.

That renewed weakness puts further pressure on exporting companies as their goods become more expensive to sell into the UK market.

John Finn said it was likely there would be a degree of volatility out to the end of the year now with the pound-euro moving in the range of 88 to 92 pence with bouts of strength reflecting progress and bouts of weakness reflecting bad news.

“The markets have taken the view that they’re not going to seek an extension. In reality, there will be no trade deal. What you’ll probably get is a heads of terms agreed by the end of the year. They won’t call it an extension, but in reality it will be. They’ll probably get six months extra on some things and 12 months on others,” he said.

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