There have been plenty of stories in recent times of large corporations going bust, leaving a trail of out-of-pocket suppliers and creditors in their wake.
But it would be wrong to assume this is the kind of thing that only happens in the world of big business. Even down at the ‘grassroots’ level of microbusinesses and one-man-bands operating in niche cottage industries, where the principles of trust and your word being your bond are still believed to hold sway, things can go wrong.
Latest official figures have confirmed what most people in business already suspected - the UK economy isn’t looking in too great a shape. Growth has stalled to a virtual standstill, just 0.1%, following the worst quarterly performance in five years in the first three months of 2018.
Confidence is low amongst both businesses and consumers, with investment and household spending both down - two factors which, of course, feed one another. In addition, the early months of 2018 have witnessed a succession of big-name company failures, from high street chains like Toys R Us and Maplin, to public sector outsourcing giant Carillion.
It seems that no news is good news when it comes to tales of insolvency and corporate debt across the UK economy at the moment. Maternity and baby specialist Mothercare is the latest name to join the swelling ranks of high street retail chains teetering on the brink of collapse.
Mothercare has announced plans to close a third of its stores - a total of 50 outlets - as part of a proposed Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) to offset losses of £72.8m in the last financial year. If approved by creditors, the move is expected to see up to 800 jobs cut.
The Parliamentary report into the collapse of disgraced outsourcing giant Carillion has certainly pulled no punches.
Amongst the tastiest soundbites, MPs have accused bosses of ‘stuffing their mouths with gold’ while the company’s finances floundered, summing up their behaviour as ‘recklessness, hubris and greed’.
Small business owners want the UK government to outlaw late payments as new figures reveal that half of SMEs face financial stress due to not being paid on time.
In a new survey carried out by YouGov and reported by The Sunday Times, 61 per cent of small business owners strongly support the suggestion that the government should legislate to force companies to pay suppliers on time.
The idea put forward in the survey was to create a mandatory 45-day payment term for all invoices. Not only would such a move strengthen the hand of small suppliers and contractors when payments become late, it would also curb the practice of big businesses imposing punitive conditions, such as the notorious 120-day terms collapsed outsourcing giant Carillion insisted on.
Just 11 per cent of firms with fewer than 250 employees are opposed to the idea of legislation.
It sounds like something out of a Hollywood gangster film - a $50 million fraud, an attempt to launder the proceeds by buying a Picasso painting, and an undercover FBI agent who foiled it all.It sounds like something out of a Hollywood gangster film - a $50 million fraud, an attempt to launder the proceeds by buying a Picasso painting, and an undercover FBI agent who foiled it all.
But no, this is a real-life story. In place of gangsters, you can substitute stockbrokers whose crime was illegally fiddling share prices in a worldwide scam. After being caught red-handed, their actions led to the collapse of the firm they worked for, London-based Beaufort Securities, which was declared insolvent by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in March.
The lessons of the 2008 banking crisis seemed obvious. Economic growth built on the shaky foundations of unsustainable debt was nothing more than a house of cards ready to come crashing down.The lessons of the 2008 banking crisis seemed obvious. Economic growth built on the shaky foundations of unsustainable debt was nothing more than a house of cards ready to come crashing down.
A decade on, it’s hard to make a case that much has changed. On the face of things, there is a renewed mood of optimism that we might be on the verge of good times again. The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook upwardly revised its prediction for global economic growth to 3.9 per cent for 2018 and 2019, up 0.2 per cent from its forecast just six months ago.
Contractors and SME suppliers in the UK could finally be in line for legal protection from losses in the event of a client collapsing.
In the wake of several high-profile insolvency cases such as that of Carillion, which raised fears that suppliers could be left billions out of pocket in unpaid invoices, the government has launched a review of corporate governance regulations for companies entering insolvency.
The collapse of construction giant Carillion could spell havoc for the UK’s small business economy, the country’s SME trade body has warned.
The massive building services conglomerate has been forced into liquidation with debts in excess of £2bn, putting 20,000 jobs at risk. As a major government contractor, there are immediate concerns over infrastructure and maintenance projects covering schools, hospitals and transport.
Wholesaler Palmer & Harvey has entered administration after failing to restructure significant debts owed to suppliers. The Palmer & Harvey Group, the UK’s fifth-largest privately owned business and the country’s largest tobacco supplier, had been in takeover talks with Carlyle, the private equity firm.
But after talks broke down, directors from several Palmer & Harvey group companies made an application to London’s High Court to enter administration to help ease an increasingly unmanageable debt burden.