By Daniel Hunter

Small businesses are experiencing significantly higher levels of distressed compared to larger businesses according to R3’s latest Business Distress Index.

37% of small businesses are experiencing decreased profits, compared to 19% of medium-sized businesses and just 7% of large businesses. 24% are regularly using their maximum overdraft limit compared to 6% of medium-sized businesses, while no large businesses report to be doing so.

In fact, across all distress signs, higher numbers of small businesses are suffering with the exception of making redundancies. 17% of large businesses have had to make redundancies compared to 12% of small businesses.

“Small businesses are likely to be struggling because they typically have less access to capital," Lee Manning, R3 President, commented.

"Investing in a small business is arguably less attractive to investors compared to a venture into a larger business due to the monitoring requirements of a smaller loan being the same as a significant investment in a large business. Therefore, the resources required are often disproportionate to the anticipated returns.

“Small businesses are often more vulnerable to any change in circumstances, such as a loss of a major customer or increased pressure from their creditors. Small businesses find it difficult to diversify quickly enough to change their business in response to such events and typically do not have access to adequate financial resources to fund a restructure.

"Large businesses are more likely to have the means to restructure, such as relocating or cutting head count. For this reason, it is not surprising that the one area large businesses are experiencing higher levels of distress is in making redundancies — when trading conditions become difficult larger businesses have the ability to reduce head count to weather the storm.”

Business distress levels remained elevated throughout 2012 according to R3’s research. A third (33%) of businesses are experiencing decreased profits; one in five (20%) are regularly using their maximum overdraft facility; nearly a third (31%) have seen a reduction in sales volume and one in ten (10%) have been made to make redundancies.

“During the two years R3’s Business Distress Index has been running, distress signs have often fluctuated quarter on quarter," Manning added.

"However, for the last three quarters distress signs have remained at similar levels, which suggests the economy remains stagnant.”

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