According to “Raport o stanie sektora małych i średnich przedsiębiorstw w Polsce” (“Report on SMEs in Poland”) (Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, Warsaw, 24th edition updated in 2021), the Polish corporate sector is dominated by micro-enterprises, whose share in the structure of the entire sector (by number of persons employed) is as high as 99.8%.

They contribute the largest share of GDP from among all business groups (data from 2018) – 49.1%. Small companies account for 2.2% of the Polish business sector, and their share in GDP is 9.1%. For medium-sized companies, these figures are 0.7% and 11.1% respectively. It is SMEs that the offer of repayable instruments is addressed to.

In accordance with the report referred to above, the condition of the Polish economy in 2021 was assessed significantly lower than in previous years. This is inextricably linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has lasted for more than one year. The average assessment of the current economic situation in Poland is still strongly dependent on the size of the enterprise. Micro and small companies assess the current situation below the average, while medium-sized and large companies – better.

The growth rates of operating prices and the timeliness of payments made by counterparties have deteriorated again. In that respect 2021 was the worst year since 2016. The innovation indicator also declined.

BGK supports the development of competitiveness of SMEs by distributing national and EU public funds provided in the form of repayable instruments, i.e. loans, sureties and capital injections. A group of such instruments, referred to for marketing purposes as EU loans, are a response to the demand of the SME market for access to external financing. The youngest companies, i.e. start-ups, usually rely on own capital, i.e. direct contributions from founders and shareholders. As the company grows, so do its capital needs and own funds are no longer sufficient – start-ups are then more willing to seek external sources of funding. Micro and small enterprises, especially in the first years of their activity, are particularly sensitive to the problem of the unavailability of funding, mainly due to the lack of credit and business history and the insufficient ability (or inability) to provide collateral. For this reason, they are trapped in the so-called financial gap, which means that market mechanisms fail to meet their need for external financing. Filling this gap is particularly important as it offers an opportunity for those enterprises for which without such support it would be difficult to secure funding for economically viable projects or for maintaining their liquidity position. The objective of EU loans for SMEs is thus to facilitate access to financing by enterprises and not to assume the risk of the funding provider.

Being an administrator of the entrusted public funds, BGK mainly offers aid financing to enterprises, i.e. on more favourable terms than those available in commercial deals. Businesses are frequent users of such financing, thus satisfying their demand for investment funds, improving their competitive position and potential, and maintaining their liquidity. Support in the form of repayable financing instruments is distributed by entities selected by BGK in tender procedures (financial intermediaries), e.g. loan funds, surety funds or regional development agencies. They know perfectly the needs of local companies and offer financial support that corresponds with their needs.

Funds for the financing provided by BGK are sourced from national (for more information see section SMEs Liquidity Support Loan Fund) and regional operational programmes. The repayable support formula ensures that they are renewable, which means that funds disbursed return in the form of e.g. loan repayments and are available for use in subsequent support transactions. Another advantage of this offer is a broad range of intended uses and types of permitted projects, as well as the possibility of allocating funds as working capital. This means that enterprises can finance various economically viable projects. Due to the available grace periods in repayment, the relatively long financing period and preferential interest rates, entrepreneurs are able to plan their investment objectives reasonably, without fearing for financial loss or loss of liquidity, as the liability related to the repayment of the loans are not an excessive burden on their budget.

The wide package of products is tailored to the real needs of companies operating in individual regions. In each region, loans for the development of companies are offered – financing is provided for projects that improve their competitiveness, increase the scale of their activities or add new products and services to their offer. What is important and worth noting is that EU loans support not only well-established enterprises, but also new businesses – the EU loan offer includes loans for starting a business, addressed to those who are unemployed and are economically inactive. They help activate people over 30 years of age who are in a difficult situation in the labour market, persons over 50 years of age, long-term unemployed, people with disabilities and low professional qualifications.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has started in 2020 and continued in 2021, caused an unprecedented crisis affecting human health and the economic situation across the world. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises have been particularly hit b the situation and have become the largest beneficiary of state aid in the fight against the economic effects of the pandemic. In the context of difficulties in obtaining loans from commercial institutions, it is the EU’s financial instruments, including funds from Regional Operational Programmes, the SME Liquidity Support Fund under the OP SG, and the SME Liquidity Support Loan Fund REACT-EU, that have become an important element of support offered to smaller enterprises. Such a need emerged at the onset of the pandemic, when facing the problem of insufficient own funds, smaller businesses turned to external sources of financing much more than before. One of the most onerous consequences of the pandemic for micro and small-sized enterprises were payment backlogs and lost income due to the inability to trade and the concurrent need to incur fixed costs and expenses, such as salaries for employees or public charges, and to meet other financial obligations. In this difficult time, the Bank’s activities were mostly focused on developing protection solutions for companies that used debt financing and experienced difficulties in paying their liabilities as they fall due. To that end, additional grace periods for repayment of principal/interest and payment holidays were offered. Subsequently, in cooperation with the Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy and Marshal Offices, a package of products related to company liquidity financing was introduced.

Thus, the issue of the maintaining the liquidity position of companies in the context of the epidemic situation was a priority. Liquidity loans from the funds available under the Operational Programme Smart Growth and Regional Operational Programmes of individual provinces, as well as numerous facilitations in the repayment of the existing products launched as part of BGK’s aid package, helped minimise the adverse effects of using external financing during the severe economic slowdown. Liquidity loans are an instrument established as a form of support for companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was launched as soon as in April 2020. The total budget for this purpose as part of Regional Operational Programmes of provinces was approximately PLN 950 million as at 31 December 2021. Loans are advanced by entities selected by BGK, the so-called financial intermediaries.

Figures (relate to projects implemented by BGK):

5.6
PLN billion
amount allocated for repayable instruments from ROPs for 2014–2020;
6,370
agreements on repayable financing under ROPs for 2014–2020 signed in 2021;
1.5
PLN billion
total amount of financing provided to Polish businesses in 2021 for investment projects to improve competitiveness and their economic situation

Allocation of funds (ROP) by area of support

In 2021, the repayable instruments granted through the intermediation of BGK to entities from the SME sector were mainly used by micro-enterprises, which received 78.4% of the funds (small-sized enterprises – 17.7%, medium-sized enterprises – 3.9%).

The range of repayable forms of financing that respond to market needs, which enterprises can use to e.g. purchase plant and equipment, contributes to the expansion of the scale of their operations or addition of new products and services. Based on codes from the Polish Classification of Business Activity, beneficiaries of loans mainly include entities from the industrial processing, construction, wholesale and retail trade industries. Support provided by sector of the economy is presented in the table below.

EU funds provided in this way not only feed business – SMEs, but also support investments related to revitalisation, energy efficiency improvements, thermal modernisation and the use of renewable energy sources in businesses, in the housing and public sectors.

EU loans include a wide range of financial support solutions addressing various economic, social and environmental needs.

Loans granted in 2021 by sector (data refers only to loans granted under projects implemented by BGK in an indirect model, i.e. through financial intermediaries, while data concerning Jessica2 and regeneration loans granted in the direct model by the Bank are disclosed separately in this report)

Loans granted in 2021 by sector

Public administration and defence, social security 4
Administration; support services 228
Construction 900
Water supply; wastewater; remediation 41
Financial and insurance activities 85
Professional, scientific and technical activities 483
Education 141
Mining and quarrying 16
Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles 1350
Information and communication 91
Culture; entertainment; recreation 96
Healthcare; social security 426
Other services 303
Manufacturing 915
Agriculture etc. 50
Real estate 258
Transport and warehousing 387
Heat and electricity generation and supply 8
Accommodation; catering 588
Total 6,370

 

Loans provided in 2021 by province

Dolnośląskie 831
Kujawsko-Pomorskie 399
Lubelskie 420
Lubuskie 221
Łódzkie 416
Małopolskie 300
Mazowieckie 354
Opolskie 121
Podkarpackie 478
Podlaskie 119
Pomorskie 357
Świętokrzyskie 470
Warmińsko-Mazurskie 293
Wielkopolskie 1,045
Zachodniopomorskie 546
Total 11,345