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Welsh Businesses in Financial Distress Tops 17,300 as Economic Turmoil Continues

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The number of ailing businesses in Wales reached 17,383 in the fourth quarter of 2022 (October–December), according to the latest figures from Begbies Traynor’s ‘Red Flag Alert’, which monitors the financial health of British companies.

This represents a quarterly decrease of 1% in the number of struggling businesses in Wales, and an annual rise of 1%.

Despite the overall flat picture, the data indicates that there has been no material let up in the turmoil and financial distress being faced and identified specific sector hotspots where businesses are particularly struggling.

The businesses most affected are in the real estate & property sector, with a year-on-year increase of 12% in the number of companies in significant financial distress. This was followed by media, which saw an annual jump of 6%.

UK wide, the latest Red Flag Alert research for Q4 2022 recorded 610,405 businesses in significant distress. Representing a 4% increase since Q4 2021 and 24% surge in significant distress levels compared to pre-COVID times in Q4 2019, the data highlights the intense strain an increasing number of companies are under as they are hit by rising labour and materials costs, increasing energy costs and an economy likely headed into recession.

The most recent data on County Court Judgement (CCJ), widely seen as a leading indicator of financial distress, shows CCJ numbers are also climbing rapidly. There were 23,885 CCJs in the final quarter of 2022, a 52% rise in the level compared to the same period a year ago. Similarly, Winding Up Petitions, a much more serious legal action lodged by creditors, totalled 576 in the same period, a rise of 131% compared with 2021.

Commenting on the figures, Huw Powell, managing partner at Begbies Traynor across South Wales, says:

“We came into 2022 hopeful that the pandemic was behind us, and better times were ahead, only for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to unsettle the global economy, leading to spiralling inflation and soaring energy bills, and laying the foundations for what looks like a global recession. In the UK in particular, strike action is also piling on the pressure as staff struggle to get to work and customers stay away.

“Many of the companies captured by the Red Flag Alert are SMEs without the financial firepower larger enterprises have to fall back on. We should be applauding the directors of these smaller companies which make up the backbone of the UK’s economy for the incredible tenacity they have shown for so long.

“However, we’re taking calls from company bosses who are facing multiple challenges to keep their businesses afloat. They are dealing with a gloomy economic outlook with inflation at 40-year highs and interest rates at levels not seen for 14 years. As a result, more and more companies are starting to feel the burden of their debts, making directors question whether they can go on.”