ELFF: Nearly 8 in 10 End-Users Acquire Equipment Through Financing,

The vast majority of businesses (79%) relied on financing for at least part of their equipment and software acquisitions last year amid a decline in the propensity to finance equipment investment, according to a new study, the 2019 Equipment Leasing & Finance Industry Horizon Report released by the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation.

The study, commissioned by the Foundation and prepared by Keybridge, reveals that of total 2018 equipment and software investment of $1.8 trillion, the overall share of equipment investment financed was 50%, resulting in an estimated industry size of approximately $900 billion. The figure, lower than that in last year’s Horizon Report, is attributed to additional cash on hand, coupled with higher interest rates, which drove down the propensity to finance among private businesses.

The report draws on the results of a new end-user survey the Foundation conducted in July 2019 that was more than double the size of last year’s survey. It provides the data to estimate the current size of the equipment finance industry, assess the propensity to finance private sector equipment investment for key equipment verticals, and forecast end-user plans to acquire and finance equipment over the next 12 months.

In addition to summarizing key industry performance data, this year’s Horizon Report includes a detailed analysis of recession risk. The new Foundation-Keybridge Equipment Finance Industry Recession Monitor is comprised of a mix of 11 consumer and business-oriented indicators designed to anticipate a recession even if the downturn has yet to fully materialize throughout the broader U.S. economy.

“The Horizon Report shows that while more businesses than ever are using financing, they aren’t financing as much of their acquisitions as they have in the past,” said Jeffry D. Elliott, foundation chairman and senior managing director of Huntington Equipment Finance. “With opportunities for growth in this competitive landscape, Foundation resources like the new Recession Monitor, are critical for equipment finance professionals in their portfolio and strategy decision-making.”

Other key findings from the report included:

  • Leasing remains most used method of finance. According to the end-user survey (which focused only on private sector investment), the most common financing method used by businesses to acquire equipment and software in 2018 was leasing (24%), followed by lines of credit (16%), secured loans (12%) and other forms of finance (3%).
  • Share of businesses using financing reaches new high. The end-user survey result showing that 79 percent of respondents used at least one form of financing to acquire equipment in 2018 is a substantial increase from the previous year’s result of 58 percent, and a return to levels observed in 2015 (78%) and 2011 (72%).
  • Equipment and software investment to remain steady. The majority of survey respondents expect the volume of their equipment and software acquisitions to remain the same over the next 12 months (56%), while the share of end-users who expect volume to increase (22%) roughly matches the share who expect it to decrease (21%). Of those who expect acquisitions to increase, the majority (59%) expect to use a financing method to cover at least a portion of the cost.
  • Office equipment leads among verticals most likely to be financed. Of the 12 equipment verticals for which a sufficient number of responses were collected, office equipment was most likely to be financed, with an estimated 65 percent of acquisition volume secured through a lease, loan, or line of credit. Other verticals with relatively high financing activity include other industrial equipment (59%), agriculture equipment (59%), communications equipment (58%), medical equipment (58%), and automobiles (57%). Materials handling equipment (41%) was the least likely to be financed in 2018 among the 12 verticals analyzed.
  • Recession unlikely in the near future. The current reading of the Foundation-Keybridge Recession Monitor is that conditions of a full recession or a near-recession that drags down the business and industrial segments of the economy, including the equipment finance industry, are unlikely to occur in the next six months. However, the preponderance of economic data suggests that a recession in the next 6–12 months would not be particularly surprising (though the probability appears to be less than 50%), and a recession in the next 12–24 months is more likely than not.

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Terry Mulreany
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