An overwhelming majority of insolvency and restructuring experts believe the UK’s decision to leave the EU will lead to a rise in corporate insolvencies in the next year, and that the referendum result has already hurt businesses’ finances, according to a survey of its membership by insolvency and restructuring trade body R3.
72% of those surveyed believe the referendum result will cause corporate insolvency numbers to rise by the end of 2017, while 55% say business finances have been hurt since June.
Insolvency and restructuring experts are most concerned about a ‘hard Brexit’: 76% think it would lead to more corporate insolvencies and 60% think such a scenario would cause personal insolvencies to rise. A ‘soft Brexit’ option, meanwhile, is seen as less risky for businesses and individuals.
Andrew Tate, president of R3, says: “The insolvency and restructuring profession is concerned about the impact leaving the EU will have on the financial health of UK businesses. Even before leaving, the effects of ‘Brexit’ are being felt: a suddenly weaker pound and increased business uncertainty are already causing problems. Insolvency practitioners are on the frontline when it comes to supporting struggling businesses, and a significant minority say they have seen an increase in businesses needing help since June. ‘Brexit’ is frequently coming up as an issue when businesses seek advice.”
Overall, 45% of survey respondents say ‘Brexit’ has been mentioned by businesses seeking help since June.
Three-in-10 insolvency and restructuring experts (30%) say they have seen an increase in businesses seeking their advice since the 23rd of June, of which a fifth (21%) say ‘Brexit’ has been a significant factor in this increase (another 57% say ‘Brexit’ is at least mentioned as a factor).
Survey respondents say they expect manufacturing, financial services and retail to be the three sectors most adversely affected by Brexit; mining, defence and IT are the industries least likely to be affected. Survey respondents felt that a ‘hard Brexit’, which may involve the UK leaving the European Single Market, would have a larger negative impact on insolvency numbers than a ‘soft Brexit’.
37% of insolvency and restructuring experts believe ‘soft Brexit’ would lead to a “moderate increase” in the number of corporate insolvencies compared to current figures, whereas a similar 41% said the same for ‘hard Brexit’.
However, only 1% believe ‘soft Brexit’ will lead to a ‘significant increase’ in corporate insolvencies – but 35% say the same for ‘hard Brexit’. Two-in-five (39%) think a ‘soft Brexit’ will have no impact on corporate insolvency numbers, but only 8% think a ‘hard Brexit’ will have no impact.
Andrew Tate continued “The uncertainty around what final form ‘Brexit’ will take makes it difficult for businesses to plan ahead and assess what risks and opportunities they have. If businesses do run into trouble, they should seek advice as early as possible. Ignoring problems will not make them go away. Although it’s not a good sign that restructuring experts are already seeing more businesses seek their help, a rise in insolvency numbers is not inevitable. Recent years have seen an increasing focus in the insolvency and restructuring profession on rescuing businesses outside of formal insolvency procedures and that may help keep post-‘Brexit’ insolvency numbers down. A lot will depend on how the economy performs post-‘Brexit’, too.”
Insolvency and restructuring experts are also worried that leaving the EU will make it more difficult to resolve insolvency cases, return money to creditors, and combat fraud when work in Europe is required.
UK insolvency practitioners currently benefit from the European Insolvency Regulation which provides for the automatic recognition of their powers across the EU. 83% of survey respondents believe losing the European Insolvency Regulation will have a negative impact on the speed with which cross-border insolvencies are resolved, 79% think there will be a negative impact on the cost of cross-border work, 67% think there will be a negative impact on the amount of money returned to creditors, and 61% think the profession’s ability to combat fraud will be hurt.
The R3 member survey found that respondents believe individuals are less likely (at present) to be hurt by Brexit than businesses. Half of respondents (50%) believe the referendum result has not had an impact on personal finances; 43% believe there has been a negative impact already. Opinion on the outlook for personal insolvencies over the next year is split: 46% think personal insolvencies will go up in the next 12 months, while 41% think there will be no change.
A quarter (25%) of respondents thinks opting for a ‘hard Brexit’ will lead to a significant increase in personal insolvencies, while 35% think it would lead to a moderate increase. By contrast, 49% think a ‘soft Brexit’ would have no impact on personal insolvency numbers, and only 33% think there would be an increase.