Dhe energy crisis is hitting German SMEs hard. In order to adapt to the increased costs, one in four companies is currently planning a restructuring, according to a survey published on Thursday DZ Bank indicates. The results, which were previously available to the FAZ, are based on a survey of around 1000 owners and managers of medium-sized companies between mid-September and mid-October.
According to this, 17 percent of the companies surveyed see themselves before a realignment of their business model; 16 percent even expect to have to close energy-intensive areas. This adaptability, in order to maintain a sustainable business model even in times of changing framework conditions, is “one of the great strengths of medium-sized companies,” comments Stephan Ortolf, head of the corporate customer department at DZ Bank.
Nevertheless, there are clear differences between the sectors: While every third company in the food industry feels forced to restructure, it is every fifth in metal, machine and car construction. It is also the food sector, along with the chemical industry, that is suffering the greatest burden from rising electricity and gas prices. Bakers, milk processors and beverage manufacturers, for example, need a lot of heat for their production. In the chemical industry, gas is not only used to generate heat, but is also used directly in production as a raw material.
Across all sectors, two-thirds of the medium-sized companies surveyed stated that the increased electricity prices were affecting their business, and 55 percent for gas – around 20 percent more than six months ago. Should there be a gas shortage in winter, 44 percent fear significant impairments; According to their own statements, 24 percent would have to close business areas.
Companies want to pass costs on to customers
However, high energy prices are not the only concern for small and medium-sized companies. The costs increase across the board. 57 percent of the companies surveyed report that the increased purchase prices for primary products are having a noticeable impact on their business. The chemical and electrical industries as well as construction are hardest hit. High metal prices, in turn, hit the manufacturers of metal, machines and cars in particular.
As a result, margins are coming under increasing pressure (see grafic). As was the case six months ago, around four out of five companies are therefore planning to pass on the increased cost burden to their customers. Inflation is therefore likely to remain high in the coming months. In trade and among service providers, the approval rate is nevertheless below average. “This is probably due to the fact that demand in the retail sector is increasingly lacking given the declining purchasing power of customers and a historic low in the consumer climate,” concludes DZ Bank.
In order to save energy costs, every fifth medium-sized company is also planning to use short-time work and home office. However, 12 percent of the companies surveyed see the need for layoffs. Companies in eastern Germany consider this measure much more frequently (17 percent) than companies in western federal states (10 percent). An above-average number of small medium-sized companies also see themselves forced to cut jobs. “The fact that medium-sized companies in structurally weak regions in particular are being forced to cut jobs is particularly worrying in times of a shortage of skilled workers,” says DZ manager Ortolf. SMEs find themselves “in a dilemma on the cost side”. This could still become a challenge for the hitherto robust labor market.