Governments of most countries seek to encourage Small and Medium Sized Enterprise (SME) growth and the job creation that many believe is fostered by such growth. Substantive growth usually requires expansion capital. It is often perceived that compared with larger firms, SMEs face disproportionately less access to the debt capital they need for start-up, growth, and survival. Consequently, governments and trade associations have often intervened in credit markets by taking on the role of guarantor of loans that financial institutions advance to SMEs. For example, the Small Business Administration in the United States provides guarantees of loans made by banks to qualifying small firms. Similar schemes are in effect in, among other countries, Canada, Japan, the U.K., Korea, and Germany. Trade associations take on such roles in France, Spain, and other nations. Loans that support the expansion of small enterprises may convey significant benefits to the borrowing firms and, through job creation and retention, to the rest of society. However, to the extent that some borrowers are unable to meet the repayment obligations of their debt, guarantors also face material real costs of honoring their guarantee to the lenders. Loan guarantee programs are designed in a variety of ways. Often these programs do not appear to reflect guidance from economic theory or experience. This paper draws on empirical evidence to compare costs with benefits. In addition, it uses the results and economic theory to provide some guidance for the design of loan guarantee programs. Finally, the study shows that loan guarantee programs can be an effective means of supporting start-up, growth, and survival of new and risky enterprises. The work finds that substantial total and incremental job creation may be attributed to the Canadian loan guarantee program. The paper reviews previous attempts to conduct cost-benefit analyses of loan guarantee programs. It finds wide variation, internationally, in default rates. Published data suggests default rates vary from less than 5% (Germany) to more than 40% (U.K.). The empirical analysis reported here focuses on the Canadian implementation of loan guarantees, the Small Business Loans Act (SBLA). Findings include (1) loan guarantees granted under the terms of the SBLA provide an extremely efficient means of job creation, with very low estimated costs per job; (2) default rates are higher for newer firms, increase with the amount of funds borrowed, and vary widely by sector (borrowers in the retail and accommodation, and food and beverage sectors were significantly more likely to default than borrowers in other sectors); and (3) the widening eligibility to larger firms and to larger loans may not be well advised and is inconsistent with the goals of the program. Moreover, reducing the loan ceiling would arguably discourage fraudulent applications while servicing those SMEs most in need of early-stage capital. In addition, analysis of the lenders' motives suggests that default rates on the portfolio of guaranteed loans and, therefore, the costs of honoring guarantees, are particularly sensitive to the level of the guarantee. Small reductions in the level of the guarantee (for example, guaranteeing 80% of principal and accrued interest instead of 85%) could lead to substantial reductions in default rates. Debate persists in economic theory about whether or not government intervention in the credit market is warranted, in spite of the findings that loan guarantees seem to make positive contributions. Further analysis of these issues is advised.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0883-9026(00)00050-1
Journal Journal of Business Venturing
Citation
Riding, A.L, & Haines Jr., G. (George). (2001). Loan guarantees: Costs of default and benefits to small firms. Journal of Business Venturing, 16(6), 595–612. doi:10.1016/S0883-9026(00)00050-1