Gupta urged to support contractors

SUPPORTING LOCAL: Small Business Commissioner John Chapman.

SUPPORTING LOCAL: Small Business Commissioner John Chapman.

The state's Small Business Commissioner has urged British Billionaire Sanjeev Gupta to ensure the demise of GFG Alliance supporter Greensill Capital does not impact on payment times for local suppliers.

Financial regulator BaFin announced on Wednesday that it would temporarily close Greensill, a bank owned by billionaire Lex Greensill, following concerns around it's significant exposure to companies owned by GFG.

South Australian Small Business Commissioner John Chapman wrote to Mr Gupta on Wednesday, seeking an assurance that the businesses which supply services to GFG would continue to get paid "on time and according to their payment terms".

Mr Chapman said a number of suppliers had contacted him to express concern that Greensill's collapse could impact future payments.

"What I'm trying to ensure is that at the bottom end, the small businesses of Whyalla and South Australia aren't affected by whatever happens in the corporate world of finance," he said.

The issue of supplier payment delays has plagued GFG in recent years, with Senator Rex Patrick alleging that some firms were owed as much as $1 million in Parliament last year.

But Mr Chapman said there had been a "significant improvement" over the last six months in terms of timely payment for contractors.

"People do come to me from time to time, the Whyalla team are very responsive in investigating any issues, if there is a problem they fix it - that's what I want to continue," he said.

Asked whether Greensill's unravelling left a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Mr Gupta's planned $1 billion upgrade of the Whyalla Steelworks, Mr Chapman said it was hard to "crystal ball" about the company's direction.

"Where I take great comfort is that the Whyalla operations have gone from taking a loss to moving into the black, that's happened in recent months and is a very significant step," he said.

"When Mr Gupta bought the business it was loss-making, he was very upfront about that, and to have turned that around is a credit to everyone involved and particularly the staff in Whyalla.

"At the moment this looks like a blip on what's been a long journey...hopefully that's all it is."