According to the literature, discouraged borrowers are firms that need external finance, but do not apply for a bank loan because they fear that their application will be rejected. Due to the scarsity of data, it is rather difficult to document the relevance of discouraged borrowers for an economy and the impact of their status in terms of economic growth. It is also difficult to empirically validate theoretical models that explain the presence of such type of borrowers. In this paper authors overcome these problems by using a unique dataset from the European Central Bank, which matches firms that participated in the Survey on Access to Finance of small and medium sized Enterprises (SAFE) with their financial statements. From the information derived from the survey they directly identify discouraged firms, firms that applied for a bank loan and received the loan, and firms that applied for a bank loan but had their application rejected. Furthermore, authors then use the information on the financial statements to explain the characteristics and behaviour of discouraged borrowers compared to both successful and rejected applicants.
Authors first explore how discouragement is related to the financial position of firms, once they control for other important factors linked to the business cycle and credit supply conditions. They make use of a theoretical model (Kon and Storey, 2003) that states, in a nutshell, that firms will be discouraged to apply for a bank loan when their expected profits of investing the bank loan do not exceed the total effective costs of borrowing.
A second aim of the paper is to quantify how important the discouragement effect is for the economy. Authors find that discouragement has real effects on firm employment and growth due to the lack of access to bank loans.
A third aim of the paper is to understand whether discouraged firms are risky firms according to their observed characteristics and, in particular, to make a prediction on their approval likelihood if they would have applied. Authors do so by analysing the characteristics of those firms that applied and received a loan and they relate these characteristics to discouraged borrowers. They find that the vast majority of discouraged borrowers (61%) would be rejected if they would apply, however, there also exist some discouraged borrowers (8%) with a high likelihood to get their loan application approved. This is true when the discouraged firms are compared to approved firms in the same country only. By contrast, the approval likelihood of discouraged borrowers shows a different story when they are compared to approved firms from all the countries in their sample. For instance, in some countries (Belgium, Germany, Finland) the approval likelihood of discouraged borrowers increases significantly (from 8% to 17%) when they are compared with approved firms in countries like Greece or Spain. The results indicate, from a new angle, that the banking sector in the euro area might not be strongly integrated.
From a policy perspective, even though authors find that only few discouraged borrowers would be likely to get an application approved, policy measures to help inform discouraged borrowers about their approval likelihood could be desirable if the cost of these measures is lower than the value that these few borrowers would create if they get their application approved.
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