The number of corporate insolvencies seen across the UK rose by nearly half during the first six months of 2022, as spiralling inflation, rising interest rates and energy costs, supply chain disruption and ongoing geo-political uncertainty continue to pile pressure on businesses.
Analysis of notices in The Gazette by Interpath Advisory reveals that a total of 451 companies fell into administration or receivership from January to June 2022 – up from 312 during the same period in 2021, but still not back at the pre-pandemic levels of 655 in H1 2020 and 686 in H1 2019.
March saw the highest monthly levels of administrations and receiverships since July 2020, with 101 appointments.
The rising number of insolvencies can be seen across a wide range of sectors, with building and construction, industrial manufacturing, and retail industries experiencing the sharpest rises.
Blair Nimmo, Chief Executive of Interpath Advisory said: “Businesses up and down the country continue to be buffeted by an array of headwinds, from inflation and interest rate rises, to supply chain disruption and staff shortages, not forgetting the war in Ukraine and now political uncertainty on the home front with the impending change in Prime Minister.
“Inflation – both in terms of input costs and wages - is proving to be a particular challenge, as organisations tread that fine line of how much they can pass rising input costs on to customers, while wrestling with the conundrum of balancing pay rises against double-digit inflation.
“With five consecutive interest rises over recent months, and undoubtedly more to come, plus fuel and energy costs continuing to rise, there’s no surprise that both consumers and businesses alike are thought to be preparing to batten down the hatches in the autumn.”
Blair Nimmo continued: “Many businesses are now spending the cash buffers built up over the last couple of years, and so from a cashflow perspective, appear to be reasonably healthy. However, their balance sheets and profit and loss (P&L) statements are weak, and the reality is that it won’t be too long before cash outflows catch up.”
“Remember: a large number of businesses were propped up during the pandemic by the myriad of government support schemes, coupled with a supportive lending environment, leading to higher availability of cash.
“However, anecdotally we are now starting to see two things. First, in certain circumstances, institutions are becoming more cautious in their approach to lending. Should even a small number of lenders start to catch a cold, this will become problematic for businesses, as they burn through their cash reserves, and inflation continues to rise.
“Secondly, in recent weeks we have seen instances of enforcement action being taken and winding-up petitions being issued. While it’s too early to say that this is becoming a trend, it’s certainly notable given the moratorium on enforcement that was in place during the pandemic.”
Blair Nimmo concluded: “Speaking from our own experience at Interpath, we are certainly starting to see an uptick in activity, both across our insolvency teams, but also our value creation teams, who are typically brought in at the earlier stages of the cycle, when businesses first start to experience signs of stress.
“This does give cause for optimism, indicating that businesses are recognising those warning signs and seeking support early. The importance of this cannot be underestimated – in periods of stress, the more time you have to deal with the issues at hand, the more options and levers are available to pull.”