ECONOMY, MARKETS & INVESTING | Staff Reporter, Singapore

8 in 10 SMEs worry about global economy

34% are positive about local affairs.

More Singaporean small to medium enterprises (SMEs) are worried about the global economy, with 79% expressing their concern, a survey by Bibby Financial Services said.

According to its Global Business Monitor 2017, only 20% said the global economy is performing well.

SMEs' sentiment towards global affairs is different from their perception of the domestic economy, however.

Around 34% of surveyed SMEs said the local economy is doing well, whilst 19% said it is performing poorly.

Moreover, 43% expect an increase in sales, whilst only 15% foresee a decline.

Bibby Financial Services added that nine in 10 businesses plan to invest over the next 12 months, with staff training and development, sales & marketing, and IT or digital technology featuring as the key investment areas.

About 22% of Singaporean SMEs also see finding new market segments as the top growth opportunity.

Meanwhile, 67% of SMEs said rising overheads and costs pose the biggest challenge for them. Currency fluctuations followed with 54%, along with lack of skilled staff with 53%, retention of skilled staff with 53%, and cash flow with 51%.

Amongst participants, 67% said collecting payment from customers on time hindered their cash flow the most. Others found difficulty in punctually paying suppliers, business rent, business rate, and employees.

Almost half have ready access to finance at 49%, though, and only 9% said they have poor financial availability.

The average payment time for SMEs in Singapore is 45 days.

Amongst SMEs, 62% said they did not have bad debt accumulated over the past 12 months. Only 4% don't know, whilst 34% are facing bad debt.

The survey also reported that 27% don't know the amount of money they lost through bad debt, whilst 16% lost $10,001 to $20,000, and 14% lost more than $100,000.

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