The global financial crisis (GFC) occurred from mid-2007 to early 2009. It began with a downturn in the US housing market and became an international banking crisis due to excessive risk taking by banks which spread globally throughout the financial system. Governments around the world bailed out banks and implemented accommodative monetary and fiscal policies to prevent the collapse of the world financial systems. Immediately after the GFC came a global economic downturn, where many countries experienced their deepest recessions since the Great Depression.
The impacts of the GFC and the economic downturn were smaller for Australia than for other advanced economies, for example, the immediate decline in house prices was for a shorter duration compared to the United States. The Australian government and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) implemented policy responses to ensure that the Australian economy did not suffer a major downturn. Policy responses included lowering the cash rate, expansionary fiscal policy and guarantees from the Australian Government on deposits and bonds issued by Australian banks. After the GFC, Australia implemented some of the new global banking regulations, with a major impact being tightening of lending standards.
This article compares the decade before and after the GFC and highlights changes in financial behaviour for the private non-financial, financial, national general (Commonwealth) government, and household sectors observed through the estimates published in this publication.
Private non-financial corporations
Graph 1 shows private non-financial corporations’ investment (Gross fixed capital formation - GFCF) grew steadily up to December quarter 2008, slowed during the GFC, and grew more strongly up to December 2012. This growth was mainly due to mining investment. Mining investment’s contribution to GDP grew dramatically from September quarter 2000 to the GFC and then remained subdued during the GFC due to damaged business confidence and falls in commodity prices. Resource demand (in particular liquified natural gas) from Asia drove rapid growth in mining investment from 2010 to the peak in June quarter 2012. Since the peak, mining investment has slowed down as large projects concluded and new projects did not materialise as commodity prices weakened. Growth in recent quarters was driven by maintenance of existing mining productive capacity and some improvements in business confidence and conditions in non-mining investment.
Graph 1 shows private non-financial corporations (PNFC) investment is mainly funded through a mix of internal (gross saving) and external financing (net borrowing). In the year leading up to the GFC, most funding was through borrowing due to favourable credit market conditions. During the GFC and up to early 2011, as confidence in the financial market collapsed and credit became more expensive and harder to get, financing was mainly funded through saving, and PNFC started to pay off debt to reduce risk. Since early 2011, PNFC are again using a mix of saving and borrowing to pay for investment. The proportion of internal funding has grown in recent years with profits made by the mining sector being used to fund investment and pay off debt. Offsetting the internal mining financing has been the external financing used by other PNFC due to the significant number of privatisations of state government utility and port corporations, and mergers and acquisitions activity within PNFC sector.
PNFC financing of investment from external sources can be broadly classified to equity (listed and unlisted) and debt (loan borrowing and debt security issuance). Graph 2 shows that in the three years before the GFC, there was an equal share of equity and debt financing, with financing via debt securities picking up compared to the early 2000s. Equity financing dilutes ownership and control while debt financing imposes borrowing costs and increases risk. Risk associated with debt financing may be considered prudent during periods of buoyant income, stable interest rates, and good investment opportunities (as was the case during the mining boom) as leveraged corporations stand to make substantial return on investment compared with unleveraged corporations. Graph 2 shows the significant repayments of loan borrowing and the decline in debt security funding during the GFC. In the decade since the GFC, the main external funding source has been equity financing followed by loan borrowing, with debt security funding only playing a marginal role. The significant amount of equity funding and to a lesser extent loan borrowing since late 2013 highlights the external financing used for privatisations, and mergers and acquisitions that have occurred in the last five years.
Note: The significant negative equity transactions in December 2004 and June 2005 were due to a large corporate group restructure, with the eventual transfer of its Australian subsidiaries moving offshore.