More than a third of SMEs worry they’ll be unable to pay their bills over the next three months as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on company finances, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey data.
Published on Thursday, the government statistician’s latest coronavirus business impact survey has identified a series of worrying trends about the financial welfare of SMEs, taken from a panel of 2,000 business owners in the second and third weeks of August.
The survey finds 41% of businesses reported a decrease in revenue in August, down from 47% in July, while more than a quarter (28%) of respondents expect revenue to decrease in September.
Findings of financial distress are a worrying sign amid otherwise more positive survey findings when compared to last month, and come as many businesses brace for an increase in bills when several government support measures expire in September.
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For many businesses, these include the JobKeeper wage subsidy program and access to rent relief under the commercial tenancy code of conduct.
A smaller portion of businesses surveyed said they had decreased staffing levels, with the overwhelming majority saying they had maintained the number of workers on their books heading into the final month of JobKeeper 1.0.
Asked what their actual and planned capital expenditure was compared to three months ago, 23% of business owners said they had decreased or cancelled planned purchases, while 25% said their expenditure had remained the same.
More than a third (37%) said they had no actual or planned expenditure on capital over August.
Most businesses (59%) said “future economic uncertainty” had influenced their capital expenditure plans in August, while 40% cited “future expected demand”.
Less than a quarter (22%) said the instant asset write-off had influenced their decisions, with 36% citing “other government support” such as the cashflow boost or government-backed loans.
Those making capital purchases (28% of the sample) said IT hardware, software, registered road vehicles and other equipment or machinery were targets of their investments.