Auditors warned as insolvencies rise

The UK is yet to see business insolvencies peak according to a senior
regulator who is urging caution when auditors warn about future risks.

Ian Wright, director of corporate reporting at the Financial Reporting
Council (FRC), expects to see insolvencies peak in 12 months and is asking
auditors to think hard about issuing going concern warnings, given out when
there are fears about a company’s prospects of surviving over the next 12

Last week, the FRC released new guidance, emphasising the importance of
“balanced, proportionate and clear disclosures” about going concern issues. The
guidance is aimed at addressing a looming spike in insolvencies.

“Historical patterns are that insolvencies rise at the tail end of the
recession,” Wright said.

“As businesses come out the other side of the recession they need working
capital, they need an overdraft for a fix-term loan. It’s at these moments that
they run out of temporary cash and that’s when they need to look to the banks to
get over the hump of restocking.”

Wright’s view was backed by insolvency specialists Begbies Traynor which
said: “There is every reason to suggest that the unemployment and insolvency
peaks of this recession remain some way off.”

Wright has seen going concern warnings rise from between 500 to 600 a month
to 1,100 to 1,200. He expects this to increase. He is also concerned some weak
businesses, headed for insolvency, may slip under an auditor’s radar.

Wright said recessions often burn through the economic landscape leaving only
the strongest businesses standing, while the weak ones fall.

“One of the benefits of the recession is that it rings out inefficiencies,”
he said.
“It’s normal to see that, but clearly we only want businesses [to go insolvent
if] it can’t survive and has no realistic prospects of surviving,” he said.

He believes auditors have a “delicate balancing act” when deciding whether to
issue a going concern warning.

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