Europe’s ‘SME capital’

Atomium, Brussels
Brussels: home to a thriving SME scene

Small business in Belgium are enjoying their most successful period for ten years, despite seven months of political uncertainty, according to a new report from the business intelligence provider Graydon.

The report, compiled in collaboration with UNIZO and UCM business organisations, also shows that debt has gone down, while liquidity, profitability and levels of investment have risen.

The findings prompted Danny Van Assche, Director of UNIZO, to go as far as to declare: “Belgium is Europe’s SME country,” the Brussels Times reported on Boxing Day.

Eric Van den Broele, head of Research and Development at Graydon, said: “The bulk of the SMEs are doing well and are robust. SMEs are healthier, more independent, more robust and better resistant to external shocks.”

While a small minority of SMEs are facing the prospect of bankruptcy – about 10 per cent in Flanders and Wallonia and 20 per cent in Brussels – the report also shows a steady growth to today’s 1,166,000, a 2.7 per cent increase from the previous year.

One incentive that has proved popular is a policy of helping companies find staff by scrapping social contributions for the first employee hired.

UCM is calling for that to continue along with the setting-up of attractive loan formulas, and support for businesses looking for international markets to export to.

Belgian political parties have been struggling to form a government since the May 26 election. Pieter Timmermans, CEO of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises, has pleaded for an interim government to handle a few core issues such as employment and pensions.