Days of easy credit are over, says survey

The period of easy credit conditions is drawing to an end, according to a major study of chief finance officers (CFOs).

Deloitte’s UK CFO survey for the third quarter of 2022 found that CFOs view credit as being more costly than at any time since 2010.

More than half (56 per cent) of respondents rated credit as costly while more than a third of finance leaders (39 per cent) reported that new credit is not easily available.

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Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, said: “A twelve-year period of easy credit conditions is drawing to an end. Corporates are seeing a reset in the cost and availability of credit.

"Not since the credit crunch have CFOs rated debt – whether that’s bank borrowing or corporate bonds - as being less attractive as a source of finance for their businesses than they do today.”

Stuart Cottee, practice senior partner at Deloitte in Yorkshire, said: “CFOs are anticipating thinner profit margins and so it’s unsurprising corporates are focusing on resilience, tilting towards more defensive balance sheet strategies, with cost control by far the top priority.”

In a statement, Deloitte said: “The financial market impact of the government’s mini-Budget on 23 September, which took place roughly halfway through the survey period, has added to the pressures. Those CFOs who responded after the mini-Budget foresaw materially higher interest rates and were more likely to report elevated credit costs than those who responded before.”

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Tightening credit conditions have resulted in a sharp fall in the attractiveness of debt finance to CFOs - whether bank borrowing or bond issuance - over this year. Many CFOs now see equity as a more attractive source of finance than corporate bonds, an assessment last seen during the credit crunch in 2009.

Finance leaders expect the Bank of England to continue tightening monetary policy but at a significantly less aggressive pace than markets suggest, the survey said. ​​​​​​​