As we see the last of the summer sun finally depart, The Insolvency Service has released the final set of corporate insolvency statistics for August, the final month of summer too.
Would they produce some late warmth to help the confidence and mood of directors going into autumn or be less hopeful than in previous years?
Sadly, anybody hoping for a set of good news is going to be disappointed.
August’s official figures saw an increase in insolvencies to 2,308 which is an increase from last month’s total of 1,727 – a 25% monthly increase and a 19% annual increase from August 2022.
This is the third highest monthly total recorded since 2019 with the other two highest also coming in 2023.
So why have they climbed so high once more and what was in the details of last month’s figures that can give us some clues as to what the next few weeks and months could hold for the economy?
The main driver in the increase in insolvencies in August by 581 were creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) but there was also a big jump in the number of compulsory liquidations too.
In August there were 1,880 CVLs, which was an increase of 544 on July’s total of 1,336 and a 13% increase from August 2022. These make up 81% of all the corporate insolvencies recorded in August.
There were 221 compulsory liquidations in August which was 27 fewer than a month ago but 45% higher than the same period in 2022.
This is the third consecutive month when compulsory liquidations have been over 200 so have now thoroughly increased from the historic lows seen during the coronavirus pandemic as all creditor protections introduced during that period have been repealed. Creditors including HMRC are becoming more forceful in their attempts to recoup outstanding debts increasingly through the use of winding up petitions.
There were 195 administrations recorded which was the highest monthly total since January 2019 and an increase of 71 monthly. This is up 68% from the same month a year ago.
More directors and business owners are choosing to buy themselves and their companies some additional time to restructure their debts and finances through an administration, which also pauses all legal actions brought by creditors against the company while it proceeds.
There were 11 company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) which was a decrease of eight from last month and a 15% annual reduction. CVAs are still an important tool to help businesses make their outstanding debts more manageable but are not appropriate or suitable for every insolvency case.
There was one receivership appointment in August, the first since June 2022. No additional businesses had an insolvency moratorium recorded by Companies House (46 since June 2020) or had their business restructuring plans approved by a court (22 since June 2020.)
In Scotland there were a total of 112 company insolvencies registered which was an increase of 15 on last month and a 6% annual increase on the same month last year.
This total is made up of 71 creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) (up from 51 in July); 33 compulsory liquidations (down from 44 in July) and eight administrations (up from two). There were no CVAs or receiverships recorded.
Historically, compulsory liquidations have been the highest driver of insolvencies in Scotland but from the beginning of the pandemic there have been three times as many CVLs recorded instead.
In the first eight months of 2023, CVL numbers remain one and a half times higher than the corresponding number of compulsory liquidations.
There were 12 company insolvencies registered in Northern Ireland last month, down one on July’s total and a 14% annual reduction from the total 12 months ago.
This was made up of six creditor voluntary liquidations (CVLs) (down two from July); two compulsory liquidations (down one) and four CVAs (up from two). There were no administrations or receivership appointments recorded last month.
Northern Irish corporate insolvencies tend to be traditionally lower than the totals recorded in England, Wales and Scotland. Because these numbers are smaller, any small changes in actual numbers will have big percentage changes, which could be misleading.
The total number of company insolvencies for the whole of the UK in August 2023 is 2,432 – an increase of 595.
“Businesses are being hit from a variety of angles – all these blows affect the bottom line”
Nicky Fisher, President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body said: “August’s corporate insolvency figures were their highest for this month in four years as a mixture of long-term economic issues, director fatigue and creditor pressure saw more companies enter an insolvency process in an attempt to resolve their financial issues or shut their doors.
“Creditors voluntary liquidations remain high as more and more directors choose to wind down their firms, while compulsory liquidation numbers were at their highest this August for four years as creditors continue to pursue the money they’re owed.
“August’s administrations figures were the highest monthly figure we’ve seen since January 2019, which is a sign that more and more businesses are at a point where they are in need of specialist help to survive – and that a sale or a liquidation may be their only options.
“The sad fact is that businesses are being hit from a variety of angles – and all these blows have an effect on their bottom line. Cost inflation has been a problem for some time and while this is expected to ease it’s still sitting higher than many had predicted.
“As a result of this, upward pressure on pay is continuing, while recruitment is a challenge, and people are still cautious about spending money on anything other than the essentials.
“It’s unlikely the picture will improve in the near future as people and businesses face the prospect of increased energy bills, and people start watching their spending even more closely.
“Our message to directors is simple: be alert to signs your business could be financially distressed and seek advice as soon as they show themselves.
“If you’re having problems paying wages, staff or suppliers, if stock is starting to pile up, or if you’re worried about your business and its finances, that’s the time to speak to a qualified advisor.”
Last month we noted that although overall insolvencies reduced they had still jumped on an annual basis.
This month they have increased to their third highest monthly figure in four years and have increased by 19% annually.
Combined with another increase in inflation and a probable further rise in interest rates this week and there looks to be little in the way of relief coming for business owners in the near term at least.
This is why they should act quickly and while they still can, to find out what options they have available to them that might make a difference to the future of their business.
We offer a free, initial consultation to any director or business owner who wants to explore the choices available to them.
Once they fully understand what they can realistically do and achieve then they can get on with implementing those tough but essential calls that could give their company the best chance of being here and profitable next summer.