Insolvencies to stay at record highs despite rate cuts
Historically high levels of corporate insolvency are tipped to continue in the economy’s struggling industries, despite this month’s hefty cut in interest rates.
As the number of corporate failures continues to rise, the chief executive of the credit reporting agency Dun & Bradstreet, Gareth Jones, said the number of companies going into administration in weak industries was likely to remain high.
There was a 16.7 per cent annual rise in the number of companies tipped into administration in the March quarter, figures showed last week.
Mr Jones said lower interest rates would do little to help businesses in financial strife, especially those in struggling sectors such as retail and manufacturing.
‘‘There are clearly certain sectors of the economy that are feeling the pressure more than others and this may continue to result in relatively higher insolvency numbers among these firms,’’ Mr Jones said.
‘‘Industries such as manufacturing, non-mining related construction and retail are most affected by conservative consumer spending and the high exchange rate — one of the contributing factors to shifts we are seeing in the overall structure of the economy.’’
Businesses applauded the Reserve Bank’s 0.5 percentage point cut in official interest rates this month, and Mr Jones said this may help companies with outstanding debts.
However, he added: ‘‘For businesses experiencing severe financial distress, a reduced interest payment may not be sufficient to put their cash flow cycle back where it should be.’’
Mr Jones said many firms were also being squeezed by delays in payments from trade creditors, with businesses typically waiting 52.6 days to be paid.
‘‘This delay in settling accounts withholds the funds that businesses need to maintain operations – equal to tens of billions of dollars every year,’’ he said.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s figures do not say which industries have experienced the greatest rise in insolvency, but turnaround specialists say retail and property firms have been especially hard hit.
The head of corporate recovery at accounting firm PKF, Ken Whittingham, said he thought the number of small businesses being wound up had hit a plateau, and many banks were trying to work through problems rather than appointing administrators.
Mr Whittingham said the cut in interest rates could benefit struggling businesses, but there was likely to be a lag for several months.
‘‘They’re unlikely to feel any benefits until about June or July at the earliest,’’ Mr Whittingham said.