Business Insolvency Rates Still Falling

The October 2013 Business Insolvency Index from Experian, reveals that year-on-year business insolvency rates in the UK fell for the fifth consecutive month from 0.08 per cent in September 2012 (1,679) to 0.07 per cent in September 2013 (1,609). Though the picture across regions and business sectors appears to still be one of inconsistency.

By company size, the October index shows that the larger companies sector, for those with more than 501 employees, which had experienced increases in insolvency over the previous few months, have now seen a fall, from 0.11 per cent in September 2012 to 0.10 per cent in September 2013. Companies in the 100-500 employee bracket also performed better – showing the biggest fall in insolvencies from 0.16 per cent to 0.09 per cent.

Regionally, the North East saw a particularly sharp fall in insolvencies – from 0.32 per cent in September 2012 to 0.12 per cent in September 2013, meaning that there has been no rise in its rate since April this year. Experian recorded that the next most improved region was Yorkshire with a fall from 0.12 per cent to 0.09 per cent.

It was a game of two halves for firms in the Midlands – with the West Midlands recording a rise in insolvencies from 0.07 to 0.09 per cent, while the East Midlands fared better with a decrease from 0.08 per cent to 0.05 per cent – its lowest rate for over five years. Whilst most regions recorded falling or level insolvency figures, there was a slight rise in the East of England, which saw its rate up to 0.10 per cent from 0.07 per cent last year.

Across business sectors, the most significant drop shown in the October 2013 Index, was in the Building & Construction industry, with its rate dropping from 0.14 per cent to 0.11 per cent. September was the eleventh month it has fallen year-on year, with Experian suggesting that this reflected a more benign environment for house-building. Banking and Financial Services also continued a positive trend, with a drop from 0.15 per cent to 0.10 per cent.

Experian commented in the report that the Leisure & Hotel industry would be encouraged to see another drop from 0.13 per cent to 0.11 per cent. It is now a whole year since this industry saw a rise in its monthly insolvency rate. By contrast, sectors to see a rise in insolvencies included food retailing businesses, with food manufacturing, where the number of recorded insolvencies nearly tripled in comparison with the September 2012 figures. For the non-food retailing sector the latest Index also recorded a significant year-on-year increase in insolvencies. Similar insolvency increases were also recorded in the Index for both the oil and fuel, and transport industries, possibly confirming one underlying cause of insolvency as the continuing high cost of fuel.

Max Firth, the Managing Director of Experian Business Information Services, said:

“The drop in larger company insolvencies is welcome news, and it is encouraging to see that some of the key drivers of the economy such as Construction and Financial Services are performing well.”

However, the evidence for rising business insolvency in the food and non-food retail sectors suggests that whilst the UK economy as a whole might be deemed to have ‘turned the corner’, households are still ‘feeling the pinch’, and remain largely not able or willing to spend more freely in the shops.

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