Continued optimism among Australian SME exporters


SME exporters have started the year optimistically, with 39 per cent expecting their export sales to increase over the next 12 months, according to new research released today by Export Finance Australia, Australia’s export finance agency.

Increased overseas demand (24 per cent) was the main reason provided for this increase, with this optimism around export sales growth also up by 8 per cent from this time last year.

The research, which surveyed 871 SME exporters, is the fifth in a regular quarterly series conducted by Export Finance Australia to provide key insights into the outlook of Australian SME exporters.

Access to finance

Since the start of 2014, the proportion of SME exporters expecting that access to finance would become more difficult has grown by 157 per cent.

This looks set to continue in 2015, with the majority (58 per cent) in this survey expecting to find it more difficult to access finance for their export or international operations in the next 12 months.

A recent credit refusal was the main reason given by respondents for this view (24 per cent), with just over half that number (13 per cent) believing a weakening of their own financial performance would make it harder to access finance.

Increased exports to drive revenue, profit

The proportion of overall revenue attributed to export sales increased by 25 per cent during 2014, highlighting just how important exports have become to those SMEs surveyed.

Exports now make up 16 per cent of total revenue, with this forecast to grow by another 4 per cent in the next 12 months.

Smaller exporters (those with turnover between $100,000-$1m) are the most positive, with this group expecting exports, as a proportion of overall revenue, to grow by 6 per cent in the next 12 months. 

28 per cent of the SME exporters surveyed also expected the profitability of their international operations to increase over the next 12 months, which is down slightly (5 per cent) since this time last year.

However, the majority of respondents (69 per cent) expected the profitability of their international operations to remain the same in the next 12 months.

A focus on China, wholesale trade

The percentage of SME exporters that named China as their most important export market has grown by almost 6 per cent in the last 12 months.

In this survey, 26 per cent again pointed to China as their most important export market, followed by Oceania/New Zealand (20 per cent), India (11 per cent) and the USA (10 per cent).

In selecting their most important export market, future growth prospects and their past efforts to grow this market were the main reasons provided by those surveyed, with:

  • 17 per cent stating that it is their highest growth market
  • a further 16 per cent stating that it is the market with the most existing customers.

At the sector level, wholesale trade remains the largest customer sector for those SME exporters surveyed, despite falling 8 percentage points over the last year, due to the continuing swing towards services exports, away from product exporting.

This is confirmed by SME exporters in this survey, with those that believe wholesale trade will be their largest sector in 12 months being down by 13 per cent from this time last year.

Export Finance Australia Executive Director, SME, Andrew Watson said, “It’s pleasing to see how positive SME exporters are about the year ahead, with improved overseas demand expected to drive increased revenue within their businesses.”

“And while a large proportion has again told us that access to finance continues to be a challenge, I hope that many look at all of the options that are available to them to secure finance.”

Read the full report published in April 2015 here.

For further information please contact:

Lynne O'Halloran
Export Finance Australia
Phone: +61 2 8273 5278
Mobile: +61 497 375 600

Becky Roberts 
Phone: +61 2 9256 9701