As the business world enters Q4 – the last tri-monthly quarterly period of the year – and everyone else is firmly into Autumn, it’s the time to look back on what happened in the insolvency world in September.
The Insolvency Service have released their latest set of corporate insolvency statistics and as usual, there is a lot to catch the eye and consider.
September’s official figures saw a decrease in the monthly total of insolvencies to 1,967 which is a 15% decrease from last month’s total of 2,308.
Despite this, the number is 17% higher than the total from September 2022 and remains the fifth highest monthly total this year.
This is a 35% increase from the total of 1,453 from September 2021 and 112% higher than September 2020. In comparison to the last pre-pandemic total of September 2019, it is an increase of 30% (1,509).
The highest category of insolvencies in September remained creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) with 1,576.
This is a decrease of 16% on last month’s total but a 14% increase on the same category from September 2022. Overall CVLs make up 80% of the total number of corporate insolvencies recorded last month.
There were 255 compulsory liquidations in September which was 34 higher than last month and 19% higher than the same month a year ago.
This is the fourth consecutive month that has seen compulsory liquidations over 200 and higher than the corresponding month a year ago. Creditors led by HMRC are becoming more active and forceful in their attempts to recoup outstanding debts using winding up petitions as their primary tool.
There were 125 administrations which was a decrease of 70 but was still an annual increase of 47% from September 2022.
Several business owners and directors are choosing the option of administration to buy their companies additional breathing space and time to restructure their finances through an administration.
Not only does it halt all legal actions pending against a business but also allows space for necessary restructuring decisions and actions to take place in a friendlier environment for the company.
There were 11 company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) last month which was the same number as recorded in August and last September too. There were no receivership appointments last month and no additional insolvency moratoriums recorded by Companies House (46 since June 2020) and no additional business restructuring plans approved by a court from the 22 recorded also since June 2020.
In Scotland last month there were a total of 87 company insolvencies recorded. This was a reduction on the 112 seen in August and a 14% reduction on the total from last September.
The total is made up of 52 creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs), down from 71 last month; 30 compulsory liquidations, down from 33 in August; and five administrations; down from eight. No CVAs or receiverships recorded.
In Scotland, compulsory liquidations have historically been the highest driver of corporate insolvencies but from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic there have been nearly three times as many CVLs recorded instead. In the first nine months of 2023, CVL numbers remain one and a half times higher than the corresponding number of compulsory liquidations.
There were 37 company insolvencies recorded in Northern Ireland last month, up 25 from August’s total and a 68% increase on the total from 12 months ago.
This was made up of nine CVLs, up from six in August; 25 compulsory liquidations (up from two); two CVAs (down from two); and one administration (up from zero). There were no receivership appointments recorded last month.
The total number of company insolvencies for the whole of the UK in September 2023 is 2,091 – a decrease of 341.
“The highest insolvency figures in a September for four years”
Nicky Fisher, President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body said: “September 2023’s corporate insolvency figures are the highest we’ve seen of this month in four years as a combination of economic issues, director fatigue and the post-Covid insolvency lag sees more firms turn to corporate insolvency processes to resolve their financial issues.
“The fact that all forms of corporate insolvency process have risen year on year, with the exception of CVAs which have held steady, shows that businesses are struggling on all sides and from all ends of the supply chain.
“Compared to September 2022, more directors have turned to creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs) to wind down their businesses and more creditors have turned to compulsory liquidations to recover the debts they’re owed.
“While numbers for these processes are higher than they were pre-pandemic, administration numbers have yet to return to 2019 levels – although they are higher than this time last year.
“It’s clear that the challenging trading climate is taking its toll on businesses. Firms are operating in a climate where people are cutting back on their spending on non-essential items, while at the same time the costs of operating a business remain high – and will only increase as the weather gets colder and cost of borrowing and servicing debts gets more expensive.”
On the face of the figures, a monthly reduction would indicate a lower rate of insolvencies which is one narrative but as Nicky Fisher at R3 recognised, the underlying trends are continuing to grow upwards.
The highest monthly figure against the previous four years totals; year on year totals for every insolvency process except CVAs growing and even then they are holding, not reducing.
It appears that the idea of an “insolvency lag” from the pandemic and recovery are not just real but are affecting businesses all over the UK and will continue to do so for some time as the contributing external economic factors such as interest rates, the cost of borrowing and servicing existing debt continues to grow.
If directors are concerned about the circumstances and surroundings their business finds itself in then they should seek advice sooner rather than later.
The earlier they book a free initial consultation with one of our expert advisors, the sooner they will know what options and choices they have to implement and when.