Corporate insolvencies expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels in the next 12-24 months, according to Deloitte.
More than 500 corporate insolvencies have been recorded in Ireland in 2022 to date.
According to new data from Deloitte, this represents a substantial increase of over 29% from 2021, when the total number of corporate insolvencies recorded was 401.
“We strongly encourage directors of any company in difficulty to seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity to allow sufficient time to plan and implement a robust recovery strategy”
2022 saw the introduction of the Small Company Administrative Rescue Process (SCARP), a process specifically designed to enable SMEs struggling with excess debt to continue to trade while negotiating debt write off and restructure with creditors.
Is SCARP working?
“This year’s figures demonstrate we are moving towards pre-pandemic levels of insolvency activity, given the artificially low levels of insolvency in recent years,” said David Van Dessel, Partner, Financial Advisory at Deloitte. Furthermore, given the economic headwinds ahead with rising inflation, increased energy costs and higher interest rates, it is anticipated that insolvency activity will likely surpass pre-pandemic activity over the next 12 to 24 months.”
“Some sectors have been more exposed than others, and we can see that in hospitality, for example. While Government supports gave a lifeline to many businesses in the industry during the Covid era, the changed patterns of consumer behaviour, escalating energy costs and difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff meant that some could no longer survive, and the only option was to shut their doors.”
Figures show 22 companies have availed of the SCARP process, representing a take up of about 4%.
“There are undoubtedly several factors influencing the present take up, with a broad lack of awareness of the process. A dedicated marketing campaign specifically targeting micro businesses would be a real benefit in highlighting the existence of the process.
With this initial high success rate, I think we can look forward to seeing SCARP becoming more widely used by SMEs, with resulting jobs being saved in our local communities, but that is in the hands of SME Directors. The Government has played its part by providing struggling SMEs with the SCARP option and it is now incumbent on the business community to ‘act early’ where they are facing financial difficulties and to deal with their finances in a pragmatic and realistic manner.”
Liquidations and receivership
As in previous years, Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) accounted for most insolvencies in 2022 with 371 (72% of total), compared to 261 in 2021 (65% of total). This represents a 42% increase in CVL activity from 2021 and is the main contributor to the overall increase in insolvency activity.
84 Corporate Receiverships were recorded to date in 2022 (16% of total), an increase of just under 8% on 2021, when 78 were recorded.
29 Court Liquidation appointments were recorded in 2022, which is a 34% decrease from 44 Court Liquidations in 2021. However, this 2021 figure was skewed by 27 Court Liquidations all related to the same group of companies in Q4 2021.
The number of examinerships to date in 2022 is considerably lower compared with previous years with only 10 examinerships, representing 2% of the total insolvencies, compared with 18 in 2021.
However, when examinerships are combined with the new SCARP process – both being restructuring procedures – the total number of restructuring events amounts to 32 in 2022, representing a significant increase of 78% when compared to 2021.
“We strongly encourage directors of any company in difficulty to seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity to allow sufficient time to plan and implement a robust recovery strategy,” Van Dessel urged.
“It is undeniable that the number one factor in a successful turnaround is early action by directors. Directors are also urged to ensure they engage an experienced and licensed insolvency advisor. As insolvency is a regulated service, where advisor’s costs are usually subject to the approval of the company’s creditors; engaging experienced advisors does not come at a premium.”
The wide ranging ‘service sector’ once again recorded the highest number of corporate insolvencies, with 219 in 2022 to date (44% of total insolvencies /168 in 2021, up 30%). This is consistent with 2021, when 42% of all insolvencies were in the ‘service sector’, and similarly in 2020, when 39% were in the ‘services sector’.
Financial services and real estate companies accounted for the vast majority of insolvencies recorded within the ‘service sector’ in 2022, with 117 (69 in financial services and 48 in real estate/114 in 2021). This represents 23% of total insolvencies in 2022, compared with 28% in 2021. Within the financial services sector, holding companies and business and management consultancy companies were the most prevalent sub-sectors.
Elsewhere in the services sector, Health, fitness and beauty companies also featured prominently again, with 36 insolvencies recorded to date in 2022 (7% of total insolvencies), compared with 31 in 2021 (8%). 15 insolvencies were recorded in technical and professional services companies, 9 in entertainment, 9 in Arts and Media, 5 in education, 5 in IT consultancy and 23 in other services in 2022.
The ‘hospitality sector’ recorded the second-highest number of corporate insolvencies in 2022 with 56, representing 11% of total insolvencies. This is a substantial increase of 81% when compared with only 31 insolvencies in the ‘hospitality sector’ in 2021.
The construction industry recorded 50 insolvencies to date in 2022, representing just under 10% of total insolvencies. This is a notable decrease of 28% when compared with 2021, when a total of 69 construction insolvencies were recorded. This is surprising given the difficulties construction companies are facing around the increasing costs of materials.
The retail industry recorded 44 insolvencies in 2022, representing just under 9% of total insolvencies, which represents a 16% increase compared with 38 in 2021.
The remainder of the insolvencies were spread amongst the other sectors, with 23 in manufacturing, 19 in IT, 14 in transport, 9 in wholesale, 6 in agriculture and over 60 in ‘other business sectors’.
384 corporate insolvencies were recorded in Leinster to date in 2022, making up 74% of total insolvencies. This is a 45% increase compared to 2021, when 264 insolvencies (66% of total) were recorded in Leinster and is well above the national 29% increase.
The other three provinces all bucked the national trend and saw small decreases in insolvency activity in 2022 to date, when compared with 2021. Munster recorded 85 (16% of total) corporate insolvencies to date in 2022 down from 88 in 2021, Connacht saw 30 (5.8% of total) down from 32 and Ulster had 17 (3.3% of total) which matches 17 in 2021.
Van Dessel concluded: “Now we are in a moment of higher living costs, leading to reduced discretionary spend, plus higher costs of doing business, both caused by inflation. So, there are a number of factors feeding into financial distress for struggling businesses, and this is before warehoused taxes have to be paid back, which is due to start between Dec 2023 and Spring 2024, depending on the specific circumstances of the debtor entity.
“Overall, the general outlook is a ‘return to norm’ in terms of the statistics we are currently seeing, but I anticipate we will surpass that ‘norm’ in the near future with increased levels of insolvency activity. One notable and positive outcome of the response to the pandemic was the creation of the SCARP process, which is to be welcomed, particularly given its success rate of over 70%.”