Belfast Telegraph

Corporate rescue expert saves 4,000 jobs at risk of axe

By Margaret Canning

An insolvency expert has said the restructuring work of his firm has succeeded in saving up to 4,000 jobs in Northern Ireland over the last four years.

Brian Murphy, a partner in business restructuring in BDO, said it had rescued 'dozens' of companies which had been facing difficulties, without recourse to formal administration proceedings.

"It's not always the grim reaper badge that applies to insolvency," he said. "We can very much restructure and save the business where possible, without the need for formal processes."

The most recent figures for Northern Ireland company liquidations from the UK's Insolvency Service show that there were 355 in 2011, compared to 382 in 2010 and 247 a year earlier.

Mr Murphy said businesses could sometimes be saved if earlier action was taken.

"If you have a business owner who has or encounters difficulties or downturn and is not getting better, rather than wait for the rain to stop and the business to get better, they need to take action pre-emptively to 'right-size' their business so that it can survive."

Such processes had been carried out by the company for "dozens" of businesses, ranging from the very small to the very large, the accountant said.

"Nobody will know about these as the rescues are conducted below the radar through direct contact with creditors, HMRC, bank and government agencies such as Invest NI, which can provide 'buying time' loans."

However, some of the companies which had been subjected to business rescue could later go into administration, he said.

Northern Ireland also had some 'zombie companies' - a term which has evolved elsewhere in the UK to describe firms which could not exist without the forbearance of their banks and are paying just the interest on loans.

There are an estimated 146,000 zombie companies in the UK as a whole, but Mr Murphy said there was no figure for the number which exist in Northern Ireland.

However, many of the so-called 'zombies' were in the property sector, he said.