New figures from the Central Bank show that SME loan rejection rates in Ireland increased to 13.9% in September from 8.2% in March 2017.

The Central Bank's SME Market report for the second half of 2017 also reveals that the SME lending market has become more concentrated in the last six months, with fewer banks holding an ever larger market share. 

This is evident both in terms of outstanding credit and new lending flows.

Annual gross new lending to non-financial, non-real estate SMEs in the third quarter of last year was 24% higher than a year ago.

The largest increases were seen in the wholesale, retail, trade and repairs sectors with new lending up 73%. New lending to the hotels and restaurants as well as manufacturing sectors was up by 39%.

The Central Bank noted that credit demand was low with the share of SMEs applying for bank loans at 21% in September 2017, according to the ECB SAFE survey. 

Companies said that working capital was the main purpose of internal and external financing.

Meanwhile, the share of SMEs in Ireland reporting they did not apply for bank loans because of sufficient internal funding stood at 50.4% in September. 

This compared to 49.5% in countries such as Austria, Belgium, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and France and 37.9% in countries including Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece.

But interest rates in Ireland for SME loans below €0.25m stood at 5% in July 2017 - higher than comparator countries, the Central Bank added.