Skyrocketing energy prices: ETI bosses brood

EYou can’t say that at the start of 2022, at the end of the pandemic storm, most French small and medium-sized business owners thought they were out of the woods… “I’ll be able to start repaying my state-guaranteed loan quietly”, said -they in the chest. With the enthusiasm of someone who finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel, many of them had resumed investments, even recruitment. Hooray, the crisis is behind us!

And then boom. The fault of Vladimir Putin, of course, who, on February 24, saw fit to invade Ukraine and thus plunge Europe back into turmoil. Seven months later, the Russian “special operation” – a bloody war, indeed – is still going on. No one knows when it will end. The prices of gas, and with them those of electricity, are at their zenith. In addition, the dollar spigot opened by US President Joe Biden has backfired, causing uncontrollable inflation. Last but not leastthe crazy “zero Covid” policy of Chinese leader Xi Jinping has severely seized the second world economy.

Slow down investments

Result of all these “exogenous shocks”, as economists say: most of the bosses of intermediate companies in France – between 250 and 4,999 employees, with a turnover of between 50 million and 1.5 billion euros, according to the definition of INSEE – have their morale down. This is at least the lesson of a survey, among 1,200 of them, 59.3% from industry, commissioned by the Movement of medium-sized companies (Meti), the ETI clubs regional offices and Banque Palatine, Point has procured.

“Tensions on supply (rise in prices, shortages, lack of labour) concern more than nine out of ten ETIs and have a strong or moderate impact on their activity, their cash flow and their profitability”, notes the movement. management. Seven out of ten companies surveyed indicate, again according to this study, that “these difficulties will have an impact on their investment projects”.

Only 9% of ETIs say they can pass on the increase to their prices

What most worries the leaders of these companies, which are major providers of jobs on the national territory, is, unsurprisingly, the evolution of energy expenditure. Half of them anticipate a 100% increase in their bill in 2023 compared to 2021. In other words, a doubling. Indeed, unlike individuals, companies do not benefit from the government tariff shield on electricity and gas prices.

Still according to this sounding, carried out from September 7 to 15, only 9% of the ETIs concerned say they are able to fully pass on this increase to their selling prices. “In the event that the increases persist, or even increase, 53.5% of ETIs risk having to reduce their activity and 7%, having to stop it”, specify the authors of the survey. “The year 2023 is now akin to a real energy wall”, comments Frédéric Coirier, co-president of Meti and CEO of the Poujoulat group, a manufacturer of metal smoke evacuation systems, based in Niort, in the Deux- Sevres.

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All of this is happening in an already tense environment. “More than four out of ten ETIs have experienced a deterioration in their cash flow over one year, ie fifteen points more than last June”, worry the sponsors of the study. Under these conditions, some of them are wondering how they will be able to repay their state-guaranteed loan. These famous PGEs seen – rightly – as lifebuoys during the Covid crisis and which are now turning into cannonballs.

The Sword of Damocles of State-Guaranteed Loans

Since this spring, a majority of the 700,000 subscribers of these loans have started to repay them, recently recalled The echoes. And they now have four years to do so. But, according to the Court of Auditors, which drew up an inventory at the end of July, monthly payments can represent up to 9% of turnover when they are combined with Urssaf debts to be repaid.

A few hints of color in this dark picture? First, nearly 40% of ETIs did not use their PGE, reports the study. Next, the finance bill for next year, recently presented by the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, provides for an envelope of 3 billion euros to help the companies which will need it (and which will meet the criteria, not yet defined). “In return, we want the large industrial companies to continue their movement” of relocation and establishment of sites in the country, however qualified the minister to the attention of the beneficiaries.

Finally, investments are holding up. “Two-thirds of ETIs have at least one organic growth project, which they finance with their own resources for 57% of them”, continue the authors of the survey. And more than 55% have at least “one external growth project”. Clearly, the project to buy another company. The misfortunes of some are sometimes the happiness of others.


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