Among the assistance measures for businesses, the State guaranteed loan (PGE) is unanimous. If there were some hiccups (see page 42), the subscriptions were massive: As of May 7, 66 billion euros in EMPs had been granted (out of a total of 93 billion requests in progress), at 81% for the benefit of TPE and PME. Even if the total will finally peak, not in the ceiling of 300 billion provided by the government, but rather in a range of 150 to 200 billion, the success is there. With its immediate corollary: how to repay it? Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, the boss of Medef, took his calculator: “EMPs are generally subscribed for an amount equivalent to 25% of turnover, to be reimbursed over four years. This then makes a reimbursement of approximately 6% per year, while the average profitability of SMEs does not exceed 3%. The equation is impossible. “
Everyone agrees on this observation. So what to do? The Governor of the Banque de France, François Villeroy de Galhau, pleaded on France Inter for “innovative, inventive forms of equity support” from the State. And there, the solutions diverge. Patrick Artus prompted Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux to use subordinated bonds: “A state-guaranteed fund would recover the debts and transform them into securities spread over a long period (up to ten years, even twenty years according to Medef ) which have the advantage of being quasi-equity. “This proposal by the chief economist of Natixis caught the attention of the Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire.
2,750 SMEs to save
Because the diagram is simpler than that defended by Antoine Frérot, the CEO of Veolia and president of the Institute of the Company, attentive in this respect to the risk of bankruptcies, in particular VSEs: “For all these entrepreneurs, it is the dream of a life that then collapses. If the state managed to save them by handing over their balance sheets to the state it was in at the end of 2019, how much would it cost? 500 billion maybe … But that would put an end to the unquenchable resentment that these disappearances would cause. “
These solutions have a drawback: they are not “selective”, as recommended by the Governor of the Banque de France. “It would not be healthy to support non-viable companies,” agrees Eric Lombard, the managing director of Caisse des Dépôts. It is therefore working on a reorientation of its equity allocations and a few other heavyweights to drain tens of billions of euros towards companies that can become profitable once the crisis has passed: “La Caisse, with Bpifrance and regional funds , is there precisely for that, but staying within market mechanisms. “
Because everyone is well aware: it would be useless to pour water on the sand … To avoid it, a young rating agency specializing in medium-sized businesses, Inbonis Rating, gave Bercy a file listing the 2,750 SMEs to be saved. “We have targeted the 30,000 companies that make between 10 and 50 million turnover,” explains Alberto Sanchez Navalpotro, its managing director, who specifies that they represent 18% of the GDP. We passed them through a triple sieve: priority sector, impact of the Covid crisis and financial vulnerability. And we shared the list with the Treasury administration. So far, Inbonis Rating's “selfless contribution” has received only a polite response from Bercy. And yet we don't make a better “selective” tool.