In an ever-changing market; and as uncertain factors rest on the horizon, borrowers and lenders together face many challenges. Christian Humphreys, partner in our asset-based lending team commented on the specialist support that ABL can offer.
Asset Based Lending (“ABL”) remains an important route to funding for many retailers, wholesalers and manufacturing small to medium enterprise (“SME”) businesses in particular; and will continue to be a key access to funds both in its current guise and in future form as funding and security pools change. ABL remains the most fluid and flexible form of security with SMEs reliant on floating charge lending incorporating inventory revolving facilities along with the primary invoice finance form of ABL supported by additional plant and machinery and property term loan facilities.
Investors use ABL to support acquisitions, as do MBO/MBIs deals, both of which have maintained traction amid economic and market uncertainty. Brexit has presented many challenges for UK businesses reliant on or exposed to Europe with some stockpiling due to the unknown, tariffs and variable trade restrictions that may well be implemented, which can prove to be an issue when cashflow is tight. Purchasing in advance leads to reduced cash availability in order to thrive withadded costs hindering a business. ABL eases cashflow issues and concerns via fixed and floating charge facilities.
ABL enables business to raise higher levels of funding to facilitate strategic plans or simply release additional working capital. ABL can offer higher levels of funding than invoice finance alone and release working capital against inventory, plant and machinery and property as noted. ABL is a bespoke solution, designed around a borrower’s specific requirements. For businesses with proof of strong cash generation in the past and positive cash forecast for the future, cash flow loans may also be available to further top up funding lines where appropriate.
Further risks loom with UK ABL under threat from the 2020 Crown Preference plans with proposals for the crown to be preferential in respect of floating charge lending that would likely impact inventory in particular. Undoing the Enterprise Act effectively leads to the crown once more ‘jumping the queue’. Lenders secured on an inventory floating charge may well be exposed and under collateralised in an insolvency. Crown liabilities need to be up to date to mitigate exposure and risk. Should proposals be approved; and there continues to be a great deal of opposition, floating charge lending could be as risky as unsecured lending. The UK needs reliable access to ABL funds to operate; and putting floating charges at risk may restrict access to flexible funding in the future, which will only be detrimental to HMRC in the long term.
We are perfectly positioned to support lenders and SMEs through the challenges and risks ahead offering advice and due diligence to assess the exposure and options to mitigate the risk. We provide independent and specialist all asset class valuations and sector guidance relating to inventory floating charge and receivable fixed charge facilities, along with plant and machinery and property term loans.