Small firms lead insolvency surge as failures leap by 9.2% in 2011

Corporate insolvencies surged by 9.2% last year to 10,481, according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, as small building firms and retailers buckled under pressure.


According to Adrian Brown, ASIC senior executive leader of insolvency practitioners, external administration appointments have remained relatively steady since the initial increase in 2008 following the global financial crisis.


In 2008, insolvencies soared 21.2% to 9,113. In 2009, insolvencies were up 3.6% to 9,437, and rose by 1.7% to 9,601 in 2010. Last year saw a further rise in appointments, led by smaller firms.


According to a recent report by company liquidation specialist Dissolve, insolvencies last year were dominated by small building firms, carpenters and retailers.


This is in contrast to the GFC, which saw a number of larger corporations go out of business.


“Overall, the figures show that there has been a move from a smaller number of large insolvencies immediately post-GFC to record numbers in 2011, but of a smaller value,” Dissolve chief executive Cliff Sanderson says.


Meanwhile, companies entering external administration decreased from 983 in November to 763 in December.


This is consistent with historical trends in activity leading up to the Christmas and New Year period, which tends to continue into January.


“October and November figures remained relatively high. Traditionally, we see a fall in activity in the December quarter due to the holiday period,” Brown said in a statement.


“The December quarter of 2011 saw a low total compared to the previous quarter but this was still higher than for the same quarter last year.”


“The December quarter total fell just below 2,600 seen in both the June and September quarters.”


Brown said statistics show a reduction in director-initiated voluntary liquidations drove the quarterly fall of 12.6% in external administration appointments over the previous quarter.


“Court liquidations and receiverships also impacted the quarterly number whilst voluntary administration appointments remained steady,” he said.


“The fall was driven by the two largest states of New South Wales and Victoria.”

Brown also noted that appointments of receivers or controllers by secured lenders fell in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, but the raw number of appointments in Queensland remains well above those of NSW and Victoria.


Receivership activity in Queensland remains strong and is believed to be driven by property-related appointments. The state also saw a marked increase in court liquidation appointments.


According to ASIC, statutory creditor recovery action is a primary driver of the increase in court appointments in Queensland for this quarter.


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