According to the Begbies Traynor Red Flag Alert for Q1, there has a been a 34% decline in companies rated as having “critical” financial difficulties. Across all sectors, the number of companies reduced from 5,000 in the first quarter of last year, to 3283 in Q1 2013.
However, Begbies Traynor warned that the improvement “masks a patchy recovery” and said that sectors reliant on the consumer economy such as retail, leisure, media and real estate had seen an increase in financial distress for the period.
Plus, taken on a quarterly basis, there has been an 8% increase in critical companies from the last quarter of 2012.
The number of leisure companies facing severe financial distress has rocketed by 81% since last quarter, which the report says may be due to unseasonably cold weather in the start of the year. The number of construction companies in critical conditions almost halved compared on last year’s numbers, whereas the real estate sector hs seen fincnail ditress levels rise 24% in the last year.
Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said, “The year on year improvement reflects the continued forbearance and benign monetary conditions facing UK businesses today, combined with an improving credit environment, albeit primarily for larger corporates. Business confidence is slowly returning in the form of greater business spending on both services and investment.”
The report also sounds concern over the lack of funding available to support the SME sector. The number of companies that managed to secure new funding had dropped by 14.5% from a year ago, and down 11% on a quarterly basis.
Palmer added: “The underlying trend is arguably one of an improving picture. However, given the slight increase in distress compared to the previous quarter, it remains to be seen if we are out of the woods yet. With business rate increases planned in April, HMRC’s new PAYE Real Time Information requirements coming into effect, and further minimum wage rises ahead there are still significant headwinds for the UK SME sector, which is typically less able to bear the burden of these changes than their larger counterparts.”
The support services and professional services sectors have seen the strongest recovery in the last year.