Global economic growth is slowing down, an evolution that can be found in the strongest economic countries too. Expectations for 2019-2020 can be adjusted by developments in trade disputes and the Brexit, but we assume a (slowed down) growth in any case.
The Global Insolvency Index shows an increase in bankruptcies for the last three years. A global rise of 7% is to be expected in 2019. Even in Belgium the amount of bankruptcies will exceed 2018’s number. The first four months of 2019 are already characterized by an increase of 3,7% (+11% of which in Flanders, +4% in Wallonia and -8% in Brussels).
In contrast to the main export countries, global Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) decreases with four days for Belgian companies in 2018. Companies are now paid after 59 days on average. Despite this improvement, Belgium’s working capital requirement remains high. Increased stocks ensure that financing continues to be high.
This year, Euler Hermes Belgium notices a markedly stronger increase in the number and size of claims compared to 2018. In 2019, Euler Hermes recorded an increase in claims of 10% in Belgium and 14% worldwide.
5. Affected sectors
Losses are suffered mainly in construction, agri-food and retail.
6. Export countries
Belgium’s main export countries (UK, France, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands) have the most export risks. On the European continent Cyprus, Turkey, Italy, Croatia and Romania should be closely monitored.
Our economists expect that:
- The US and China will reach an agreement in Q3 2019. This will result in falling import tariffs and uncertainty.
- Interest rates will remain low thanks to the ECB’s monetary policy.
- A possibly delayed, but soft Brexit agreement is reached, because of which companies will continue to postpone further investments.
8. RISK STANCE EHBE
Given the increase in risks and uncertainties, vigilance must increase too. A close monitoring of Belgian companies, especially in sectors affected by the Brexit, is a must. Sectors such as Agri-food, Automotive, Chemistry, Machinery, Pharmacy, Textiles and Transport are looked at carefully.
Despite the increased vigilance, our exposure in 2019 increased with 2% compared to 2018.