HSBC throws business a Billion Pound lifeline

Companies drained cash from their bank accounts at the fastest pace for 30 years in October, according to official figures published by the Bank of England last week. It underlines the funding squeeze many are facing as orders dry up and customers delay paying the bills.

Noel Quinn, HSBC’s head of UK commercial banking, said: ‘Our primary focus is to make sure our existing customers have first call on that money, to help them with their working capital needs.’

The initiative may provide a crumb of comfort for cash-strapped British firms, though Quinn added that it would be ‘priced according to risk’.

He said most requests for funds were from firms hoping to cover their short-term financing needs, rather than pay for major new capital investment projects.

The British lending will form part of a worldwide fund worth $5bn (£3.4bn)