Corporate insolvencies in Northern Ireland have fallen by over one-third in the first three months of 2013 to a 14-quarter low, according to new figures.
From January to March there were 55 company liquidations in Northern Ireland, which represents a quarterly fall of 36% and a 51% year on year decline, the lowest quarterly figure since the third quarter of 2009.
Last year was a record year for corporate insolvencies in Northern Ireland with 410 in total.
Richard Ramsey (below), chief economist for Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said the steep decline means that the latest four quarter corporate insolvency total has fallen to 354, 143% above the level that prevailed before the credit crunch began in 2007.
He added that looking at figures for England, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland's corporates appear to be exhibiting more signs of financial distress than their counterparts in Great Britain.
"Two key factors behind this are the direct and indirect exposure to the severe property downturn and the Republic of Ireland's economy," he said.
"An important factor behind Northern Ireland's surge in insolvencies is due to the fact that insolvencies were coming off a rather low base. Since the credit crunch began, 1,695 firms in Northern Ireland have been declared insolvent." Following a rise in unemployment of 41,500 since early 2008, personal insolvencies in Northern Ireland hit a record high of 3,189 in 2012.
There were 3,231 insolvencies recorded over the last four quarters and in the first three months of 2013, 836 individuals were either declared bankrupt (or chose bankruptcy), or entered into either an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) or a Debt Relief Order (DRO). However, bankruptcy orders fell by almost 9%.
He said that the latest four-quarter outturn is more than double the four-quarter period that pre-dates the credit crunch.
"In the 22 quarters since the credit crunch began in the third quarter of 2007, there have been 13,102 personal insolvencies in Northern Ireland," he said. "This compares with 6,652 personal insolvencies in the same period preceding the credit crunch."
"It is noted that since 2007 Northern Ireland's personal insolvency rate has more than doubled whereas the equivalent rate for England and Wales is lower than it was in 2007," Mr Ramsey added.