Most SMEs in S'pore confident of meeting loan repayment obligations: Survey

Overall, some three-quarters of SME owners said that they continue to be "optimistic" and "determined". ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Seven in 10 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the pandemic are confident of meeting repayment obligations for government-backed loans next year without impacting their business operations, a survey has found.

The survey by DBS Bank covered close to 250 SMEs in three sectors that are most affected by Covid-19 - retail, food and beverage, as well as building and construction.

The bank conducted the survey early last month, after the Monetary Authority of Singapore announced extended credit relief support measures for SMEs to partially defer the principal repayment of secured loans and Enterprise Singapore loans.

Overall, some three-quarters of SME owners said that they continue to be "optimistic" and "determined". However, they also acknowledged the toll the outbreak has taken, with one in five indicating that they were "exhausted" from dealing with the ongoing economic fallout.

DBS group head of SME banking Joyce Tee noted that while the survey shows that SMEs are wounded, they are "certainly not out for the count". "In fact, many SMEs are quietly preparing for a rebound and even those in the hardest-hit sectors have been busy reinventing themselves and transforming their business models," she said.

To meet debt obligations, close to 30 per cent of SMEs surveyed were willing to sacrifice expansion plans and scale down their business operations to make their repayments.

Only 3 per cent flagged that they were not confident of meeting their loan repayments next year and may have to shut their businesses.

The survey also saw SMEs across all three sectors identifying working capital as a top priority to tide over the economic downturn, with 65 per cent of respondents indicating that this factor is key to helping them cope with overheads.

Since early March, DBS has approved close to 9,700 loans totalling over $5 billion to SMEs through the Temporary Bridging Loan and Enhanced Working Capital Loan schemes, among other support initiatives.

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