Company insolvencies surge by 88% with numbers higher than pre pandemic levels

Insolvency figures released on Friday for November 2021* by the Government’s Insolvency Service showed an 88% increase in corporate insolvencies compared to the same month last year (1674 in November 2021 and 891 in November 2020). They were also 11% higher than the number registered two years previously (pre-pandemic; 1,509 in November 2019).

For the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the monthly number of registered company insolvencies was higher than pre-pandemic levels. This was driven by the higher number of creditors’ voluntary liquidations (CVLs). In November 2021 there were 1,521 CVLs, 43% higher than in November 2019. Other types of company insolvencies, such as compulsory liquidations, remained lower than before the pandemic.

Restructuring and insolvency professional, Oliver Collinge from PKF GM said:

“The surge in corporate insolvency numbers is not surprising. Many businesses have now started to repay BBLS and CBILS loans as well as deferred HMRC liabilities.”

“Cash flow pressures due to the well documented issues around higher inflation, staff shortages, increasing energy prices, supply chain challenges and the need to repay Covid incurred debt, is likely to lead to increased numbers of insolvencies over the next 12 months.”

“The impact of ‘Plan B’ and the re-introduction of stricter measures to protect against the Omicron variant could derail the UK’s fragile economic recovery and create serious challenges for many businesses, particularly those in hospitality, leisure and retail.

People who have been told to work from home to stop the spread of the virus might feel uncomfortable socialising and that will further diminish what is normally a critical period for retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses. Mixed messaging from government and an increasing lack of confidence could have a catastrophic impact on businesses at a time when support measures such as the Job Retention Scheme are no longer available.”

“These challenges will put multiple added pressures on businesses in the coming months, particularly those that weren’t in robust financial health before Covid, so it’s critical businesses act early and seek advice if they are struggling now, or think cash flow may be squeezed in coming months. The earlier they act, the more options they’ll have to continue trading and recover.”

“The biggest increase can be seen in Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations, where directors have chosen to place their business into an insolvency process. In part this may be because creditors can now use enforcement measures, forcing directors to take pre-emptive action. The number of administrations also continues to creep up – typically administration is used as an alternative to liquidation where it is possible to rescue a business.”

Oliver Collinge added: “There are plenty of proactive things you can do now to build resilience into your business for the post-Covid economy; don’t leave it too late. Having a restructuring professional guide you through the process can be invaluable in getting the best outcome and will also help you understand and mitigate your risk as a director.”

“For those businesses that are struggling, now may be the time to begin negotiations with landlords and creditors to develop manageable repayment plans. Will revenues be high enough to support your cost base? Will cash flows be sufficient to deal with the additional debt burden (both formal and informal) that has accrued during lockdown? Perhaps a CVA is something which should be considered or, where you may need to take the difficult decision to make redundancies to survive, consider applying for government funding to meet the short term cash impact of this.”

*November insolvencies:

Of the 1,674 registered company insolvencies in November 2021:

There were 1,521 CVLs, which is double the number in November 2020 and 43% higher than in November 2019;

50 were compulsory liquidations, which is 32% higher than November 2020, but 82% lower than November 2019;

10 were CVAs, which is 33% lower than November 2020 and 52% lower than November 2019;

There were 93 administrations, which is 27% higher than November 2020, but 38% lower than November 2019; and

There were no receivership appointments.