ELFF Study: 78% of Business Used Financing to Acquire Equipment in 2015

According to a study from the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation, 78% of businesses used at least one form of financing when acquiring equipment. The reading is up from 72% of respondents from the previous foundation market study released in 2012 and represents an increase in the overall propensity to finance.

The study also shows that 68% of the total value of equipment and software acquired in 2015 was financed, a significant increase from the previous estimate of 55% forecasted in the 2012 foundation market study.

The new study, conducted by IHS Markit, forecasts the U.S. equipment finance market will grow by 1.31% to $1.03 trillion in 2016.

Total public and private investment in equipment and software grew 4.0% in 2015, to $1.5 trillion, according to the study. In 2016, equipment and software investment is expected to be relatively flat, increasing by only 0.5%. However, due to excess liquidity and strong competition, which have driven down the cost of borrowing, finance volume is expected to outpace total investment in equipment and software. The study cites excess global capacity, low commodity prices, a strong dollar, sluggish export markets and the collapse in drilling for oil and natural gas as main factors holding back capital investment

“This invaluable research provides a comprehensive picture of the size and scope of the equipment finance sector,” said Ralph Petta, president of the foundation and president and CEO of the ELFA. “In so doing, the analysis reaffirms the industry as an integral component of the U.S. economy, enabling firms—both large and small—to acquire capital assets to operate and grow their businesses.”

Highlights from the study include:

  • Growth in investment in equipment and software is expected to accelerate slightly in 2017, growing at a 3.0% rate. By 2020, total investment in equipment and software is expected to reach $1.8 trillion.
  • The 2015 estimate for the equipment finance market (including software) is $1.02 trillion. The market for equipment and software financing is expected to grow to $1.03 trillion in 2016 and is projected to reach $1.24 trillion in 2020.
  • 68% of all equipment and software acquired in 2015 was financed. Of that, 39% was leased, 16% used a secured loan and 13% used a line of credit. This represents a major shift toward the use of leases and secured loans, which accounted for only 17% and 9% of the total value of financing in 2011, respectively. This also marked a significant shift away from lines of credit, which accounted for 29% in 2012.
  • Bank financing accounted for 47% of financed purchases in 2015, compared to 57% in the 2012 foundation market study. While banks share of financing activity has decreased, they remained the primary lenders across all equipment types in 2015. Non-bank lenders’ share of equipment financing includes 30% for manufacturers and vendors and 16% for non-bank independent financing companies.
  • Banks continue to focus their new financing efforts on companies with lower risk profiles. The share of bank financing of highly profitable companies (profit greater than 20% of sales) was 43% in 2015, compared to 47% in 2011. Meanwhile the share of bank lending to unprofitable companies declined from 53% to only 26%, as less profitable companies were forced to seek alternative financing options.
  • The share of cash purchases declined for companies of all sizes from 2011 to 2015. Low interest rates, strong competition among lenders and abundant liquidity have made financing equipment acquisitions especially attractive as lenders compete to offer the best rates to borrowers.
  • As in 2012 and a previous 2007 foundation study, the 2016 foundation study confirms that larger ticket purchases are financed to a greater degree than smaller ticket purchases.
  • The growth of fintech companies has been a major development in the equipment leasing and financing industry recently. Industry experts indicate that fintech companies have driven faster adoption of technology and have contributed to the digitalization of the lending process.
  • Executives with knowledge of the leasing and finance industry indicated that customers are increasingly asking for managed solutions or bundled services and usage-based products.
  • Most industry experts indicated that they expect very little impact on the demand for leasing from the introduction of new lease accounting standards in December 2018. Under the new guidance, lessees will be required to recognize assets and liabilities for leases with terms of more than 12 months. As the new standards have been under discussion for many years, executives expressed that firms will be prepared for the changes.

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