Business news 19 February 2024

Corporate insolvencies rise again. Demand for workers bounces back. As does retail. Investment, fraud, Thames Water, Body Shop, The Post Office & more business news that we thought would interest our members.

James Salmon, Operations Director.

Corporate insolvencies rise again

Figures from the Insolvency Service show there were 1,769 company insolvencies in January, 5% higher than in the same period last year and the highest January insolvency figure for five years. Forced closures climbed 66% year-on-year while compulsory liquidations were also more than double last month’s figures. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that increase is caused, in part, by an increase in compulsory liquidation petitions by HMRC for unpaid tax,” Jeremy Whiteson, restructuring and insolvency partner at Fladgate said. The figures also revealed a 40% rise in voluntary administrations. PwC restructuring partner Zelf Hussain said this indicated a “proactive approach by some firms to address their financial challenges through cost reductions and restructuring rather than outright insolvency.” Things aren’t expected to improve soon either with forecasts from the Centre for Economics and Business Research indicating that there could be as many as 33,000 insolvencies in 2024, which would surpass last year’s thirty-year high.

Demand for workers bounces back

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) reported a rise in demand for workers in January, with over 870,000 new job adverts bringing the total to around 1.8m. Deputy chief executive Kate Shoesmith stated that the bounce-back in demand was expected after a subdued finish to 2023. However, businesses are hesitant to invest and hire due to the stagnant UK economy. The REC suggests that simple measures to support people in finding and keeping jobs, such as transportation and childcare, can make a difference. Notable job advert increases were seen in quality control and planning engineers, childminders, and probation officers. Job adverts for prison officers, driving instructors, and postal workers have seen the biggest drop.

British retail sales bounce back

UK retail sales experienced a significant surge in January, with sales volumes increasing by 3.4% from December. This jump, the largest since April 2021, suggests that the UK economy could quickly recover from the recession it faced in the second half of last year. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) attributed some of the weakness in December to Black Friday sales in November. Some analysts say the figures point to an end to the retail recession and perhaps even the wider economy recession. But Lisa Hooker, PwC’s leader of industry for consumer markets, says: “While many of the macroeconomic indicators are positive – falling inflation, improving consumer sentiment, the prospect of lower interest rates – consumers remain cautious about spending.”

High borrowing costs will dampen investment

Bank lending is expected to remain subdued this year, with elevated interest rates tamping appetite for borrowing. The EY Item Club predicts that bank lending to businesses will rise by only 0.8% amid weak demand for credit and restrictive borrowing costs. Although the Bank of England is expected to lower its base interest rate three times, it will still end the year at a higher level compared to the past decade. UK firms are apprehensive about taking on debt in an uncertain economic environment, leading to restrained business investment. However, Anna Anthony, UK financial services managing partner at EY, says as the economy improves, confidence to invest and grow should rise and bank lending to UK businesses is expected to lift substantially from 2025.

Online crime drives value of reported fraud

The amount of fraud committed in the UK more than doubled to £2.3bn in 2023, marking the second-biggest year for scams in the last two decades, according to a report by accounting firm BDO. The report found that the number of reported cases rose by 18% to a three-year high, with high-value cases over £50m increasing by 60% year-on-year. BDO attributed the rise to online scams, phishing, system breaches, and authorised push payment transactions. Kaley Crossthwaite, a partner at BDO, stated, “The sad reality is that the fraudsters will be looking to stay one step ahead by exploiting new options like AI.” UK banks have warned of an epidemic of scams, with over 70% of scams occurring on social media, online marketplaces, and dating apps. London and the south-east of England remained the biggest fraud hotspot.

Forensic accountant predicts more damage for Post Office

Ian Henderson, the forensic accountant who played a key role in uncovering the Horizon IT scandal, believes that more damaging truths will soon be revealed. Henderson accuses senior managers at the Post Office of a “cover-up” and claims that they were “brainwashed” into thinking that the Horizon technology couldn’t make mistakes. He promises that the tapes he has given to the public inquiry into the scandal will be “dynamite.” Henderson’s investigation, conducted with his partner Ron Warmington, exposed the failures of the Post Office to properly investigate the Horizon system and consider alternatives to the view that postmasters were responsible for losses. The scandal resulted in hundreds of postmasters being wrongly convicted and imprisoned. Henderson’s findings have led to a landmark High Court case and a public inquiry into the Horizon scandal. He is scheduled to give evidence at the inquiry and has provided over 80 recordings of phone calls with senior Post Office staff.

Thames Water at risk of falling into special administration

Thames Water could be forced into special administration if shareholders pull investment in response to Ofwat blocking the company’s request to hike bills by 40% for one in four households. If Thames Water is put into special administration, it is estimated that as much as £5bn of financial support would be needed from the outset “just to keep the lights on”, according to a Whitehall source. Thames Water is struggling under the weight of borrowings of nearly £19bn. Last year its auditor warned it could run out of cash by April. The company is also at risk of being fined for breaking a new licensing agreement by paying a £37.5m dividend that ultimately ended up with the company’s parent company, Kemble. The chairman of Kemble, Sir Adrian Montague, resigned on Friday. However, Sir Adrian remains a director and chairman of Thames Water.

Land Securities slams planned Body Shop pre-pack

Land Securities, one of The Body Shop’s biggest landlords, has criticised German private equity firm Aurelius for using a controversial tactic to cut its liabilities. Aurelius, which acquired The Body Shop last November, is considering restructuring the business through a pre-pack administration, potentially putting 200 stores and 2,000 jobs at risk. Land Securities described the restructuring process as a “disruptive procedure” that “serves no one.” The Body Shop’s lease liabilities stood at £57m at the end of 2022. Aurelius has previously been involved in retail restructurings, including the break-up of Lloyds Pharmacy. The firm’s plan to use a pre-pack administration would allow it to dump liabilities and keep the most valuable assets, potentially running the company as an online business.


Currys said it rebuffed a takeover attempt from US activist investor Elliott Investment Management, believing the bid undervalues the electrical goods retailer. Currys said it received an unsolicited proposal worth around £702.8 million from Elliott. Currys said the sum “significantly undervalued the company and its future prospects”. Shares in Currys fell 0.6% on Friday, giving it a market capitalisation of £533.7 million. Elliott already has a presence in the UK retail sector. It owns bookseller Waterstones. According to City rules, it has until March 16 to announce if it plans to make an offer for Currys.

Chinese retailer confirmed that they too were considering an offer.

Employers can benefit from age-friendly jobs

Employers that offer age-friendly jobs with flexible hours and fewer physical demands can benefit from the ageing population. According to economist Andrew J Scott, greater longevity should be seen as an economic opportunity rather than a problem. Older people have contributed to over half of job growth in G7 economies this century, with the UK seeing significant employment growth in the 50-plus age group. To create a longevity dividend, it is essential to prevent a fall-off in employment among the over-50s and encourage more people to work beyond 65. Adapting to an ageing population can turn a demographic time bomb into a massive benefit for the future.

Properties took two weeks longer to sell last year

Research from Zoopla reveals that in 2023, the average property in Britain took 34 days to sell, which is two weeks longer than in 2022. Homes in London took twice as long to sell compared to properties in Scotland. The average sale time in London was 40 days, while in Scotland it was 20 days. Zoopla attributes the regional differences to affordability and the impact of higher mortgage rates on buyers in markets with higher house prices. However, recent data shows that buyer demand has increased in southern England, particularly in London. Zoopla reports an 11% rise in buyer demand in the four weeks to 7 February 2024.

Elsewhere Rightmove reported that average property prices climbed 1% last month, over £3000 to £362,839 with rises seen nationwide as mortgage prices started to come down.

Energy bosses in crisis talks over Labour’s windfall tax

Oil and gas bosses will attend crisis talks this week over Labour’s plan to extend the windfall tax. Industry group Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) warns that the policy could cost 42,000 jobs and wipe £26bn off the sector’s economic value. The organisation will hold emergency summits in London and Aberdeen to discuss the impact of a two-year extension to the levy. Labour plans to extend the policy to 2029 and increase taxes from 75% to 78%. Oil and gas firms, including Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, and Chevron, will attend the meetings to gather evidence against the proposal. David Whitehouse, CEO of OEUK, states: “If we can’t get companies to invest here, there are no jobs. It’s that simple.”

Jeremy Hunt considers tax cuts in budget

Jeremy Hunt is considering tax cuts in the upcoming Budget, with the Treasury believing that spending cuts may now not be necessary to fund them. The option being considered is to reduce the growth of total government spending from 1% to 0.75% in order to save enough money for tax cuts. However, this option would only be pursued if the Chancellor’s capacity to fund pre-election giveaways is further squeezed. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has informed the Chancellor that there is no additional fiscal “headroom” for tax cuts beyond the £13bn unveiled in the Autumn Statement. Smaller tax cuts remain affordable under current OBR forecasts, but larger cuts are unlikely. Former Conservative chairman John Gummer, now Lord Deben, has warned that slashing public spending could alienate swing voters. Despite previous tax cuts, the UK’s overall tax burden is heading for a record level in peacetime

Latest Insolvencies

Appointment of Liquidators – MCCOURT NEWTON LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – SUCCESS SOFTWARE LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ROCK HOUSE DEVELOPMENTS LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – ASH’S SERVICES LTD
Appointment of Administrator – M R LIFE TRADING LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – STEWART-MOORE SOLICITORS LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – MILLTOWN LPD LTD
Appointment of Administrator – MATT ROBERTS HOLDINGS LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – J S CRAWFORD CONTRACTS (BORDERS) LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – LOCH NESS TITLES 2 LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – COLINTON SCOTLAND LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – S.COHEN(BOXES)LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – NOVA HOUSING GROUP CIC
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – SUPERIOR MECHANICAL SERVICES LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – SKYLINE DEVELOPMENT & CONSTRUCTION LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – G & M TURLEY LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – PREMIERE PROPERTIES LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – ADVANCE SCAFFOLDING SCOT LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – JONES ELECTRICAL & SECURITY LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – LSM SERVICES (DEESIDE) LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – SUB A1 LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – WMR PROJECTS LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – BEAUMONT HEATER SERVICES LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – CONSTRUCTION COVERED LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – DATACENTRES LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – SWEETNESS SPV LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – INKA VENTURES LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – CHOPPYS BAR AND RESTAURANT LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – BROOKS QUAYLE GLOBAL RESOURCING LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – FS(MADDOX) LTD

Appointment of Administrator – ENTERTAINMENT ALLIANCE (UK) LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – SEVERNPRINT LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – THE BODY SHOP INTERNATIONAL LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – PARPEYA LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – RAWHEAD LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ACCRUE (FORUM) 3 LLP
Appointment of Liquidators – CM UNIX SOLUTIONS LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – RAW CAPTURE LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ACCRUE (FORUM) 4 LLP
Appointment of Liquidators – SHEEN STICKLAND BDM LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – THE AGILE AGENCY LTD.
Appointment of Liquidators – FRAGLE’S PLOT LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – P&J CONSULTING LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ACCRUE (FORUM) 1 LLP
Appointment of Liquidators – J.R. YOUNG (ASSEMBLIES) LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – WAKEHURST HOLDINGS LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – RVC PROPERTIES LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – FALCON ADVISORS LIMITED

Why should you become a CPA member!

The Credit Protection Association (CPA) has been assisting thousands of UK businesses to get paid, since 1914. We have seen many financial crises, this one will be particularly deadly for suppliers for some time to come.

CPA eases cash from tardy debtors – Efficiently, Effectively, Economically and Ethically. And we provide credit information so you can monitor and assess your key customers.

Unlike other credit management companies, we offer our members a fixed annual subscription regardless of how high the debt value maybe!

Just call Peter Uwins, CPA’s National Sales Manager, on 020 8846 0000 (business hours) or email today.

When you see your money come in, you will be so glad you used CPA.

The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections


Do you have a commercial late payer that is causing you grief? Use CPA’s no-win, no-fee, commercial debt recovery service!

If you have a particular business customer who is late paying and causing you sleepless nights, why not offer it to CPA for purchase on recourse?

CPA’s collection department will then pursue the debt. We will be liable for any costs incurred and then when we have recovered the debt, we will pay you the net principle debt recovered less our percentage.

Once you have enjoyed that success then you can consider the more cost effective membership which includes our Overdue Account Recovery service and Status/Credit reports as well as a range of other complimentary services.

Just call  020 8846 0000 and ask for Godfrey Nelson or Cris Shirley (business hours) or email today.

The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections.


Get compensated for previous late payments

Have you been paid late by business customers in the last six years?

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Claim late payment compensation (LPC) from former business customers who paid you late in the last six years!

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The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections.