Almost all businesses, big or small, need to borrow money at some point. Whether it is for large assets such as land and buildings, or simply for supplies to keep a business running, debt financing plays a major role in modern business. Put simply, debt financing is the borrowing of money to keep a business running, to expand a business, or to acquire assets.
Long term debt financing is usually associated with larger assets such as machinery, equipment or real estate, and it is paid back over many years. Short term debt financing, on the other hand, is most often used for business operations such as supplies or payroll, and it is often paid back within a year. The alternative to debt financing is equity financing, which involves the acquisition of money from investors and/or savings. However, we will focus on debt financing in this article.
While most companies in Britain receive their financing from internal finance, 39 per cent rely on external sources of finance, usually debt financing in the form of a business loan. The business will agree the term of the loan and the interest rate, whether variable or fixed, with the lender. As with any loan, companies will have to show the bank how it is going to repay the money and secure the loan against an asset. The asset will usually be a premises or a piece of equipment that covers the value of the loan. In addition, a bank may require that some kind of personal asset is offered as security.
Financial institutions tend to favour companies that have good management, a reliable projected cash flow and good growth potential. The business may have to demonstrate that it can meet the monthly payments from projected revenues in its business plan. Of course, the company will have to comply with the payment schedule specified by the lending institution, and it may run into trouble if it deviates from this. Longer term loans are usually provided in this manner.
Debt financing products
Companies looking for debt finance to cover day to day running costs often opt for an overdraft instead of a long term loan, although these are falling in popularity because of high interest rates, steep fines and the obligation to repay on demand.
There are many options currently available for companies looking to avail of debt financing. Factoring and invoice discounting allow small businesses to take loans out against sales, while leasing allows for the borrowing of money to buy machinery or equipment. However, term loans remain the most popular with businesses and with banks. From the point of the view of the financial institutions, it allows them to impose regular repayment schedules over fixed periods, which is less risky than overdrafts. Many companies are known to have fallen foul of the banks because they were unable to repay overdrafts when asked. This provides an overview of the debt financing products available.
Every lending institution has its own products, rules and rates so it is worth while for any business to shop around for an arrangement that suits its needs. Some companies even offer credit cards designed for small businesses to pay for day to day incidentals. However, these can become an expensive luxury if the balance is not cleared every month.
Debt over equity
Debt financing remains more popular than equity financing for a number of reasons. Interest paid on loans can often be deducted against taxes, and debt finance is available in small, accessible amounts, whereas equity finance tends to be in large amounts. Also, with debt financing the lender has no say in how the business is run and has no rights to any ownership or profits of the business. Another advantage is that business profits can be kept within the company while the loan is used for day to day running or the acquisition of assets.
Debt financing is not a suitable option for all businesses. However, for small businesses where equity financing is not an option, it can be a valuable service in the day to day running of operations and the purchase of equipment. While loans often tend to be short term and at high interest rates, debt financing remains a popular choice for many companies.