Access to finance: The banks that like to say ‘no’

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Investors are running scared of construction – put off by the collapse of Carillion, historically low returns and the feeling a problem job is just around the corner. So, is there anything the industry can do to improve its access to finance?

”Go back three to five years, a lot of the construction firms thought getting debt was an easy thing to do. It was very easy, it came at very low rates. You went there and someone threw money at you.”

Ian Marson, the UK head of construction at professional services firm EY, is recalling how things used to be for firms looking for finance. And now? “It’s terrible is the best way of describing it.”

Last month Marson warned that the number of profit warnings this year was expected to reach a nine-year high while access to credit was drying up. “The investors who were there three or four years ago are actively withdrawing from the sector and that is primarily down to margin,” he told a Building Live conference on the effect the industry’s historically low returns were having on firms’ ability to get financing for the coming years.

Marson and his colleague – director of capital and debt advisory at EY, Mike McCartney – say the single biggest reason for the way things are right now – in short, much tighter access to debt – was Carillion’s implosion last year.

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