Business news 29 August 2023

James Salmon, Operations Director.

HMRC winding-up petitions surge. Services sector profits dip again. The Wilko administration, food prices and inflation, Supermarkets, Eurozone growth, CBI, Octupus Energy, and more business news that we thought would interest our members.

HMRC winding-up petitions surge as tax debt nears £50bn

HMRC has issued the highest number of winding-up petitions since before the pandemic, according to data from restructuring specialist Kroll. Directors were presented with 348 winding-up petitions in July, with this the highest number of court orders in any month since 2019. The number of time-to-pay agreements negotiated with struggling companies was up by 20% in Q1 compared with Q4 2022. Kroll says HMRC has become “more aggressive in its enforcement and collection processes” in the first six months of the year and has “restricted its discretion” with time-to-pay arrangements. David Fleming, the firm’s UK head of restructuring, said that while the tax office is “broadly supportive” of companies with a strong underlying business, it wants directors to be aware that is “not a lender” and “certainly not a lender of last resort.” Analysis shows that tax debt owed to HMRC totaled around £46bn in Q1.

Services sector profits dip again

Profits in Britain’s services sector have fallen for a seventh consecutive quarter, according to a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey. Cost pressures and a dip in business volumes drove down profits for the consumer and professional services industries in the three months to August. A net balance of 27% of consumer services firms suffered a fall in profitability, while a net balance of 19% of professional services companies saw a decline. The consumer services industry also saw a decline in business volumes, with a net balance of 34% of companies reporting a fall, compared with 22% in the previous quarter. Among professional services businesses, a net 2% of companies flagged a weakening in activity, with this steady on a quarter-on-quarter basis. Charlotte Dendy, the CBI’s head of economic surveys and data, said: “Despite a fall in inflation and moderately lower energy costs, help is needed from Government in the autumn budget to assist businesses in navigating another difficult winter where cost pressures are likely to continue to impact firms’ decisions to grow and invest.”

Wilko administrators urged to consider bids that save jobs

Union officials have urged Wilko’s administrators to consider bids for the retail chain that would save the most jobs. A GMB spokesman said it is seeking reassurances that administrators at PwC are not “knocking back” any credible offers. The GMB has written to Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch about “extremely concerning” claims that some bidders had “difficulties engaging” with PwC. The letter also voices concern over a “clear conflict of interest” in regard to restructuring specialist Hilco, which it claims is acting as “both an adviser to the business and a creditor.” Private equity firm M2 Capital is looking to acquire Wilko and has said jobs would be safe for at least two years, while HMV owner Doug Putman is bidding to save 350 stores. B&M and Poundland are also in talks to take some of its stores.

Food prices edge lower
Price rises in the shops are slowing sharply although retailers have warned that this is not the end of the cost of living crisis. According to the British Retail Consortium, the rate of inflation across all shop purchases came down from 8.4% in July to 6.9% in August. Food prices led the drop, particularly for meat, potatoes and cooking oils. The decrease was driven by a fall in food inflation from 13.5% to 11.5%. The move will relieve pressure on the bank of England

Public trust in supermarkets falls
A consumer insight tracker from Which? has found that trust in British supermarkets has fallen to the lowest level since February 2013. Less than half of shoppers surveyed said they trusted the supermarket sector to act in their best interests. The poll also saw more than three quarters of respondents say they had adjusted their habits in response to high food prices, including buying budget ranges and skipping meals.

Eurozone lending growth slows again
Growth in lending to companies in the eurozone slowed again in July. Lending to firms in the currency bloc expanded by 2.2%, year-on-year, marking a slowdown compared to the 3% growth recorded in June. European Central Bank (ECB) data also shows that household credit growth slowed to 1.3% from 1.7% in June. The ECB raised interest rates for the ninth time in a row in July, increasing the rate that it pays on banks’ deposits from 3.50% to 3.75%. The bloc saw inflation of 5.3% in July, with some analysts suggesting that it will not fall back to the ECB’s target of 2% until 2025.

Flight Chaos

After a systems failure at air traffic control led to the cacellation of some 790 departures and 785 arrivals, the UK faces airport chaos today as thousands face disruption and delays for days as the airports and airlines try to move planes around and recover.


The Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) has been expanded to include all of London’s boroughs. Drivers must pay a charge of £12.50 per day to drive a non-compliant vehicle anywhere in the zone under the controversial clean-air plan.

CBI outlines conduct principles

The Confederation of British Industry has implemented a new code of conduct for its events, setting out principles that ensure people are treated with “dignity and respect” and detailing that the business lobby group expects “a safe and secure working environment.” This comes in the wake of a scandal that saw a complaint of sexual harassment against Tony Danker, the CBI’s former director-general. The group also saw a series of unrelated misconduct claims against other members of staff, with details of a toxic workplace culture also emerging. Mr Danker’s successor, Rain Newton-Smith has since pledged to reform the CBI.

Octopus Energy eyes Shell deal
Octopus Energy is closing in on a deal to acquire Shell Energy Retail, Shell’s household energy business, in a takeover that would make it the UK’s second largest energy firm. The deal would mean the Big Six suppliers would hold a market share of more than 90%. Octopus last year bought Bulb Energy, which had 1.6m customers. Taking on Shell’s 1.5m household customers would take Octopus closer to Centrica-owned British Gas, which supplies 10m homes and businesses. US investment bank Lazard is handling the auction. Ovo Energy has previously been linked as an interested party.

Homebuyers increasingly rely on the Bank of Family
Analysis by Legal & General (L&G) shows that a record number of people are relying on help from the so-called ‘Bank of Family’ to enable them to buy a house. Financial support from family members is expected to help with 318,400 property purchases this year, with 47% of property purchases by those under the age of 55 set to involve the help of parents, grandparents or other relations. The average amount of support is expected to hit £25,600 this year, with total lending reaching around £8.1bn. In 2016, total lending was £5.3bn. One-in-five people surveyed by L&G said they would have to delay their home purchase by more than five years without family support, while one-in-10 would not be able to buy a home at all.

Star fund managers losing their shine?
Turbulence in financial markets has seemingly shaken investor’s faith in fund managers such as Terry Smith and Nick Train. Data from investment research firm Morningstar shows that investors have pulled £754m out of Terry Smith’s £23.8bn flagship fund, Fundsmith Equity, this year. Meanwhile, £486m has been withdrawn from Nick Train’s £4.4bn Lindsell Train UK Equity. Rob Burgeman of wealth manager RBC Brewin Dolphin suggests that the outflows show investors are anxious about whether the fund manager’s strategies can continue to deliver above-average returns in the long-term. Jason Hollands of investment platform Bestinvest said that while there was a time that “star managers were feted like pin-striped rock stars … that is now largely a thing of the past.”


China’s economic outlook is showing no signs of improvement, with forecasters broadly trimming their expectations for growth, prices and trade and predicting more monetary policy easing. Economists now see GDP expanding 5.1% in 2023over 2022.

Transfer spending passes £2bn
Premier League spending has passed the £2bn mark for the first time in a single transfer window. Analysis by Deloitte shows that top flight clubs have already exceeded the record £1.92bn spent last summer. With £815m spent in January and the window to sign new players not closing until Friday at 11pm, clubs could still pass the £3bn milestone for the calendar year. Calum Ross, assistant director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said: “This sensational level of spending appears to be the new norm for Premier League clubs.”

Latest Insolvencies

Appointment of Liquidators – APRADA LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – BRIGHTON VIBES LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – FINSBURY SQUARE 2019-1 PLC
Appointment of Liquidators – AR CORPORATION LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ANDREW N MORGAN LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – JAS TIMBER LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – IMC (NORTH WEST) LIMITED
Appointment of Administrator – UNDERPINNED LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – UNIVERSAL SYMBOLICS LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – DARK HOLLOW RISKS LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – MILLS DESIGN SERVICES LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – H & R CARRIERS LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – RELEASING VALUE LTD.
Appointment of Liquidators – SMART LION LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ALCANZAR LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – D & L PROJECTS LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – LIME AND BLACK CORP LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – W K PROFESSIONAL SERVICES LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – K2 INFOTECH LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – JLBC LIMITED

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


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


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