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Nick BancroftFebruary 6, 20243 min read

Navigating the Corporate Insolvency Landscape in Australia

Analysts project a surge in corporate insolvency rates throughout Australia, anticipated to escalate further in the 2024 calendar year. This upward trend is evident in the most recent statistics provided by ASIC. In this discussion, we explore proactive measures that you can undertake to mitigate insolvency risks.

As economic pressures mount, Australian insolvencies are once again climbing, as indicated by ASIC’s latest corporate insolvency data released in December 2023.

In the period spanning from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, Small to Medium Enterprises accounted for the majority of insolvencies.

Among the leading causes cited for business failures were insufficient cash flow or excessive cash expenditure (52%), trading losses (49%), and the pandemic (19%). Predominantly, insolvency reports originated from NSW (41%), followed by Victoria (27%), and Queensland (18%).

Worrell’s data reveals a total of 10,366 corporate insolvencies for the 2022-2023 financial year, marking the highest level since 2019 when the figure stood at 11,224. Brendan Giles, principal at Worrell’s, predicts a continued surge in corporate insolvencies throughout FY2024, foreseeing figures surpassing the long-term average by year-end.

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“Interest rate rises are going to bite in particular industries and in overleveraged businesses this year,” says Maria O’Brien, chair of the Turnaround Management Association (TMA) and a partner at Baker McKenzie.

“Businesses are facing supply chain issues and staffing issues. And in 2023 there was speculation around a lot of the fixed rate residential mortgages which came off last year - speculation that this would lead to an increase in insolvencies.”

Other pressures include the rising cost of living, a squeeze on credit availability and increased court action by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to claim unpaid small business tax. The ATO has ramped up Federal Court actions to recover $30 billion in overdue small business tax. It started 476 wind-up proceedings in the first seven months of 2023, compared with 14 in the same period of 2022.


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Guidelines to Follow

It's crucial to exercise caution when sourcing new clients. Conducting thorough due diligence to evaluate the risks and rewards associated with engaging with them is essential, especially if you aim to establish enduring partnerships.

Securing a company credit report is advisable and readily accessible through platforms like CreditorWatch or Equifax. These reports furnish vital credit insights, encompassing comprehensive demographic, financial, and public record details such as payment behaviours and trade experiences.

Audit and controls can also be set up to ensure that you’re revisiting your existing client book, and conducting basic financial and risk assessments where possible. Many companies offer subscriptions to ASIC alerts, which means that you can be immediately advised of any substantial updates to your client’s company and structure.

No sector remains immune to the compounded strains of inflation, supply chain disruptions, and labour shortages. Hence, it's imperative to exercise prudence across all client industries. The myriad of challenges confronting numerous businesses heighten the difficulty of settling invoices.

Consider the construction sector, where several major firms have shuttered operations due to supply chain bottlenecks, scarcities in skilled labour, escalating material and logistics expenses, and adverse weather conditions. Despite the continued expansion of the technology industry and positive local workforce sentiments, global tech and speculative stocks continue to face downturns, particularly in companies compelled to undertake significant layoffs.

In light of the tech bubble burst, a deceleration in M&A activity as private equity transactions recalibrate valuations and investments following the 2021 peak.

These factors influence the timeliness of supplier payments; therefore, it's critical to review your business terms and ensure new clients are aligned with terms conducive to managing your cash flow effectively. If a typically reliable client exhibits irregular payment behaviour, consider it a red flag and proactively engage to avert further delinquencies and debt collection efforts.

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Business Support

Now is the opportune time for businesses to reassess their credit and cash flow management strategies. For recruiters, whether invoicing permanent placements or overseeing recurring contractor payrolls, exploring invoice financing can be beneficial. It guarantees timely contractor payments irrespective of client invoice settlements.

If time constraints impede debt collection efforts, outsourcing to proficient external teams can streamline invoice retrieval on your behalf. This not only saves time and resources but also enables you to concentrate on cultivating client relationships and expanding your enterprise. Oncore offers comprehensive services to bolster your business operations.

Amid ongoing economic uncertainty, potential client insolvencies, and escalating costs, maintaining vigilance in cash flow and payment management is paramount. Remain attuned to warning signs among clients and stay abreast of market dynamics within your operational domains.

Should you require assistance or consultation, don't hesitate to reach out to the Oncore team. We're committed to supporting you and your business endeavours.