Banks in Ireland now rank as the second lowest borrowers to small and medium businesses according to new data from the European Union.

Eurostat, the EU’s central statistics office, has just released statistics which prove that Irish banks are the second worst in Europe for lending to business.

The latest Eurostar review reveals that the percentage of unsuccessful applications for bank credit in Ireland by smaller companies rose to 27 per cent in 2010 from just one per cent three years earlier.

Bulgaria topped the poll of unsuccessful applications with a 36 per cent rejection rate with Ireland in second place on 27 per cent.

Next up were Latvia (26 per cent), Holland  (23 per cent), Lithuania and Britain (both 21 per cent). The lowest rejection rate was in Finland (0.2 per cent), Malta (2 per cent), Cyprus and Poland (both 4 per cent) and Italy (5 per cent).

Only Sweden recorded a fall in the level of unsuccessful applications, from nine per cent to six per cent in the survey of 19 of the 20 EU member states.

In its report, Eurostat said the economic crisis has made it more difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises to access banking credit.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, the chief executive of Ireland’s Small and Medium Businesses Association Mark Fielding, confirmed that companies in Ireland are struggling without access to bank credit.

“The reckless bankers who have created the financial crisis, under the eye of Government, must not be allowed to terrorize business owners under the guise of newly discovered ‘prudent lending’,” said Fielding.
“The state, as the major shareholder, must insist on a return to ‘normal economic lending’ to business and must monitor this through proper, honest statistics and returns to the Central Bank.

“Up to now these returns have been incomplete fairy tales and subject to manipulation by the banks to suit themselves, as was pointed out in three recent reports.”

However, a spokesperson for the Irish Banking Federation claimed that a recent report from the Central Statistics Office showed that 74% of loan applications were fully or partially approved.

He also said that the IBF and member banks working with a Department of Finance Stakeholder Group which includes the commissioning of market research to provide further insight into the nature and extent of SME demand for credit.

Bank of Ireland, College Green in DublinAP