Insolvency has often been defined as a state where an individual, entity, organization or company can no longer meet its obligations and liabilities to its creditors or lenders. It can also mean a position where the amount of liabilities exceeds the amount of assets. In short and to put it simply, it is the inability to pay one’s debts. For companies especially, insolvency is such a big issue and one that is highly avoided by all means possible. So you ask. Are there any warning signs to watch out for to avoid such much dreaded state? Our friendly experts from www.aabrs.com have got some useful insights for us. Read on up on five of these and discover for yourselves.
- A negative cash flow should be a warning sign although it does not on itself signify insolvency. Cash flow statements indicate how much inflows and outflows a company has. Sometimes even if the business has good and increasing sales standing with constantly stable expenditures it can still have low inflows as is the case when it has more sales on credit which are mostly unpaid for a long time.
- Delay in payments to suppliers and to government entities. Most companies will have a date or a set of dates set as to when it will pay off its suppliers and when it will be remitting its withholdings to the appropriate regulatory body. These schedules are part of a routine and deviation from such can mean a red flag. Oftentimes when businesses are in a financial distress they try to delay their payments to improve short term cash flows.
- Missed payments. If not delayed, you miss out on payments. Companies that are unable to timely pay for what they owe can signify lack of resources to do so. This one is basically a no brainer. If you can afford then why can’t you pay right?
- A Winding up Petition is one clear sign. Creditors who often initiate this seek to get payment from the owing party which can be achieved through a winding up petition. This action can freeze up corporate bank accounts and assets.
- Inability to pay one’s employees is also a clear and visible red flag. As businesspeople you know very well the value of your staff and that your failure to provide for their salaries can upset them leading to degraded work. Not being able to pay them can mean you are going down the road to insolvency or you may already be there.
With the current economic situation, a lot of companies are struggling to keep their business afloat. And quite a number of them continue to do business without getting any consultation from financial experts leaving them with huge amounts of debt. In turn, creditors will chase them up for payments. If and when the company is still unable to pay the creditors after a few attempts to collect, then the creditors can file a winding up petition at court. What it means is that, after investigation the court can order compulsory liquidation of the company in order for them to pay the creditor/s. Once the winding up petition (WUP) has been issued, the company will be given 7 days to act. This situation should be prevented at all cost because once a petition is filed; all your bank accounts will be frozen. In 7 days you have to settle your debt with the creditors, this will make it even harder to pay if your accounts are frozen. After that, if you haven’t paid up, then your company will then go through liquidation so that the creditors will get paid.
Just like any case, there are ways to fight this. If you think that the creditor’s claim is unreasonable, then you should hire a solicitor to defend your company and get the petition adjourned. If you believe that your company still has a good chance to recover from debt, then your solicitor can also request for an administration order to be granted. What this means is that, a licensed insolvency practitioner will be appointed as administrator of the business. He or she will then place strategies in order to push the business forward with a goal to get the most value out of the company’s assets. When the company reaches a reasonable market value, it can then be sold or have the assets liquidated. It has the same goal as with winding up, to pay the creditors.
Once the court grants the winding up order, there is nothing that you can do at this point. The court will appoint an Official Receiver (OR), who will be tasked to liquidate all assets of the company. The OR has 12 weeks to decide whether he will retain the case or pass it on to an insolvency practitioner (IP). During which the directors will also be under investigation if they had done any illegal trade since the petition was issued. If so, legal measures will be filed against the director. This is a very serious offense and if proven guilty, you will not be allowed to become a director to any company for 15 years.
If you have financial problems now, it is best to consult a solicitor or financial planner before your creditors will take extreme measures such as WUP against you.
The first case I encountered pre pack administration was when I was still in Australia. As you may all know, Australia is known as a wine country. Obviously because of all the wineries spread across the country. One particular winery was having financial trouble since competition was pretty fierce; they had a hard time keeping up with the wine-making business. Hence, they went into voluntary administration.
What happens when a company is into administration?
What this means is that, a consultancy firm will take over the company on behalf of the owners because they are no longer able to bring the company to full throttle. The appointed administrators will be the one who will run the business on their behalf. They will assess the overall financial situation of the company. Administrators will find any strength in the hope of getting the business back in shape. They will find a way to make the business profitable, earn a bit more value, and when it does then the option to liquidate or to sell the business as a whole to a buyer will then take place.
In some cases, the business and assets are pre-packed and ready to be sold to a buyer, usually another company in the same field of business who will take over operations or dissolve the company entirely and just absorb the assets into the mother company, thereby eliminating competition. An insolvency practitioner will also be hired to act as administrator in order to ensure a smooth transition.
How to hire administrators
Some firms offer free consultation and evaluation of a business before you hire their services while some firms charge you for a fee. Either way, get a good scope of what each firm can do for you and then meet with your fellow directors so you can decide which firm you will hire. A shareholders and creditors meeting is held in order to nominate and vote for an administrator. Once appointed, the administrator will give his proposal to the company as to what his plans are in order to bring the company forward. He will present some strategies and tactics to help save the company. The group will then decide and vote again if they agree with the proposal or not. Once the proposal has been accepted then implementation of the new procedures and strategies will commence.
So what is a pre-packed administration you may ask? This process primarily aims to promote recovery of business entities that are likely to be under insolvency and therefore is at a high risk of dissolution and/or bankruptcy. Here, the company is sold off to current directors, a trade buyer or a third party in such a way that daily operations remain as is even if ownership has been transferred already. A pre-packed administration therefore permits and allows for business continuity, preserves corporate goodwill, saves jobs and keeps the business afloat.
According to the Association of Business Recovery Professionals in the UK, pre packs are arrangements under which the sale of all or part of a company’s business or assets is negotiated with a purchase prior to the appointment of an administrator and the administrator effects the sale immediately or shortly after his appointment.
why do certain companies choose to make a pre pack administration? Here are some of the reasons why:
- As stated earlier it aims to rescue entities that are at risk of insolvency and bankruptcy. No one would ever want that and a solution out of such unwanted possibilities is always a thing worth considering.
- It provides business continuity. Besides as stated in the Going Concern principle, individuals or a group thereof put up a business and see it to run indefinitely. No one invests and aspires to loose in the first place.
- It allows and provides for the attainment of better outcome and output scenarios for creditors as when compared to liquidation or winding up of business. In the former, business runs its usual course only with a change in ownership thereby retaining creditor interest. In the latter, creditors will have no choice to receive whatever is left of the company if there is any.
- It also helps preserve jobs. Pre-packs however do not guarantee that no one is laid off but it is able to keep more people employed. On the other hand if the entity winds up its affairs everyone loses their jobs and sources of income. No one is spared. It is about choosing the lesser of two evils and where one will gain more benefits than harm.
- Also, the value of the business is retained with a pre-packed administration because you are reviving something and saving what could be spared rather than throwing away everything later on because you acted too late.