The H1N1 Swine flu threat may be the big topic on CNN but a growing contagion of financial distress is widely infecting small and mid-sized enterprises (SME) with potentially fatal consequences.
CFO magazine reports that 14% of companies are struggling to pay their bills or are at risk for bankruptcy. These findings are the result of a study CFO conducted on 1500 Midcap companies. The 2009 Credit Risk Benchmarking Report indicated that 550 companies of the 1500 made the credit watch list and over 200 of the names were in or are entering a distressed financial condition.
The report measures each company on three factors: cash as a percent of revenue, days payable outstanding (DPO), and DPO relative to the DPO of that company's industry. The last of these measures is intended to expose which companies are under performing regardless of the economic condition of their industry as a whole. A company scoring low in all three areas is rated a potential credit risk.
The strain of a two-year recession and limited credit access is taking its toll on small and mid-sized businesses. This development is not surprising. The recession has hurt sales growth across all market segments. Banks, still reeling from the credit crisis are still concerned about troubled assets on their balance sheets. Bankers can't afford more write downs on non-performing loans. Banks remain highly risk adverse to credit default exposures and have drastically reduced credit risk to SMEs by shutting down new lending activity.
Reduced revenue, protracted softness in the business cycle and closed credit channels are creating perfect storm conditions for SME's. Bank's reluctance to lend and the high cost of capital from other alternative credit channels coupled with weak cash flows from declining sales are creating liquidity problems for many SMEs. As a defensive maneuver, SMEs are extending payment cycles to vendors to preserve cash. This same cash management practice is also being employed by their clients resulting in an agonizing daisy chain of liquidity pain. SME's that have concentrated exposures to large accounts are at the mercy of the financial soundness of few or in some instances a single source of revenue.
The growing contagion of financial distress is also a major threat to supply chains. Buyers might prize their ability to drive hard bargains with their suppliers but the concessions won may be the straw that breaks the camels back driving a supplier into insolvency.
It is critical that managers understand all risks associated with clients and suppliers. It is critical that managers assess risks associated with client relationships and key suppliers. In this market, enhanced due diligence is clearly called for. The financial soundness of suppliers and clients must be determined and scored so as to minimize default exposures to your business.
CreditAides is a company that delivers SaaS based financial health assessments on SMEs. CreditAides reports that their clients are becoming more vigilant and thorough in their due diligence of customers and suppliers. They have noted a particular emphasis on the growing practice of reviewing the financial health of suppliers. Supply chain risk is a heightened risk factor for SME's due to their over dependence on single source. Conducting a financial health assessment on key suppliers and other enhanced due diligence practices mitigates a risk factor that could have potentially devastating consequences. SME manager's need to button down their due diligence practices to prevent the sickness from infecting their business.
CreditAides SaaS can be accessed here: www.CreditAides.com
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Risk: contagion, credit risk, counter-party, supply chain, client, recession, banking