Rise in corporate insolvencies in first quarter as GDP growth weakens

Mark Upton at Ensors Chartered. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Mark Upton at Ensors Chartered. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Weak Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the first three months of the year may have contributed to a rise in corporate insolvencies, a trade body says.

Latest figures from the government’s Insolvency Service show that underlying corporate insolvencies rose by 13% in the first quarter of this year (January-March) compared to the previous quarter (October-December) and by 0.6% in comparison with the first quarter of 2017.

Mark Upton, chair of the eastern branch of insolvency and restructuring organisation R3, said insolvency had risen up the agenda with a “roll-call” of high-profile names – Carillion, Maplin, Toys R Us. There were also restructuring efforts within the casual dining space sector.

“Although there was plenty of support on hand for Carillion’s sub-contractors, suppliers and customers from the financial services industry, for example, our members still reported an uptick in requests for advice,” he said.

“A raft of profit warnings and lower than expected corporate results in the first three months of the year point to a difficult trading period over the festive season, while Black Friday at the end of November pulled consumer spending forward, eating into the success of the New Year sales.

“The ‘Beast from the East’ and repeated episodes of bad weather are also contributory factors. Indeed, government statistics indicate that there has been barely any economic growth in the first quarter of this year.

“The insolvency figures for January to March may also have been affected by the end of the financial year falling in early April. Our R3 members report that the first quarter of the year is a relatively common time for directors to take stock of their position, and decide whether or not to continue to trade.”

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Consumer confidence beat market expectations in March, although it is still firmly in negative territory, he said.

The rate of pay growth was now slightly higher than inflation, meaning people had a bit more in their pocket to spend.

He added: “There are few directors who won’t need to take a strategic look at future market changes. There is no doubt that things are tough out there, but planning ahead and speaking to a regulated and reputable adviser could make all the difference.”