France keeps up the paceConjoncture in France - December 2017
An analysis of the current situation and short-term outlook of the French economy and France’s international environment, comprising two analysis reports, twenty-one thematic data sheets, and a number of special focuses on topical matters. For this December 2017 issue, the forecasting period runs to Q2 2018.
Is the increase in French firms’ indebtedness a cause for concern?
Since 2009, the indebtedness of non-financial corporations in France has presented a singularly different dynamic to the rest of Europe. It increased by 16 percentage points of GDP between 2009 and 2016 whereas it remained more or less stable across the Eurozone. In 2016, enterprises’ debt in France reached 90 percentage points of GDP, a level higher than that of its main neighbours (Germany, Italy or Spain). This dynamic is occurring in a context of exceptionally low interest rates, although this also applies in the other Eurozone countries.
The debt profile of non-financial corporations since 2009 seems to reflect a more dynamic investment record in France than in the other main European countries, while saving has only increased there very recently compared to the latter. In addition, the indebtedness of non-financial corporations has been accompanied by a sharp rise in the liquid assets they hold. A study carried out at microeconomic level suggests that this phenomenon, which is specific to France, could in fact be due mainly to the same companies, which take on debt whilst accumulating liquid assets at the same time. These are mostly large corporations, operating in the manufacturing sector and representing the parent companies in groups.
Net of liquid assets and assets held in a broader sense, the debt level appears to be relatively contained in French companies. This finding, however, has no bearing on their exposure to a sudden rise in interest rates or a fall in the price of assets.