September 2022

Turnover of Italian corporates is growing in 2022, but margins are falling and credit risk is increasing

2021 recorded a significant recovery in turnover and operating margins of Italian non-financial corporations, albeit with large differences between sectors. Inflationary trends will continue to push turnover upwards again in 2022, with an expected increase of around 9% compared both with 2021 and with the pre-pandemic figure of 2019. However, the current context, characterized by multiple pressures and uncertainties, has led to a marked downward revision of the 2022 outlook in terms of operating margins, which are expected to be slightly lower compared with both 2021 (-40 bps) and 2019 (-50 bps), before the outbreak of the pandemic negatively affected the global economy.

These are some of the key remarks that have emerged from the latest update of the CRIF Pulse Observatory, which gives insights into the forward-looking scenarios for all corporate sectors and, through accurate KPIs, guarantees a timely interpretation of the ongoing trends in the market, relying on CRIF’s information assets.

In terms of financial impact, the balance between financial sources and uses for Italian companies remains delicate. The pressure on operating margins and working capital requirements will be difficult to offset in the short term in terms of cash generation capacity. However, companies that raised adequate financial funding in 2020-2021, thanks also to the measures put in place by the Italian government to contain the crisis caused by the pandemic, have a vital liquidity buffer,” explained Simone Mirani, CRIF Ratings General Manager.

It should be borne in mind, however, that the end of moratoriums and the resulting resumption of loan repayment plans, together with the impact of soaring energy and commodity prices, could exacerbate liquidity pressures, especially in the working capital-intensive and energy-intensive sectors. The gradual increase in interest rates in the current context may also contribute to a further increase in credit risk in the medium term and the resulting default rate in 2023-2024, especially for companies with high levels of debt.”

FORECASTS FOR 2022

According to CRIF forecasts, most Italian economic sectors will close 2022 with a significantly higher turnover than pre-pandemic levels thanks to the effects of inflation, in particular starting from Q4 2021. By the end of 2022, even the sector most affected by the pandemic – Tourism and Leisure – will have closed a large part of the gap created in 2020-2021 due to the effects of the pandemic.

On the contrary, in terms of margins, inflationary pressures will push most sectors to EBITDA margins lower than those before the pandemic. In particular, Agriculture and Manufacturing are the sectors expected to have the worst performances from this point of view. Sectors with low energy intensity and limited exposure to commodities, such as the Services and, more generally, the Tertiary sector, will close 2022 with higher margins than those before the crisis.

As for Utilities, the effect on the sector will vary depending on the positioning in the energy value chain, with a strong inflationary effect on revenues but negative impacts in terms of profitability, especially for sales and re-selling activities.