Belfast Telegraph

Almost 7,000 Northern Ireland businesses in distress since start of year

Lawrence O’Hara, Begbies Traynor
Lawrence O’Hara, Begbies Traynor
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Almost 7,000 businesses in Northern Ireland were recorded as being in a state of distress in the first three months of 2019, new data from insolvency specialists Begbies Traynor has shown.

The latest quarterly Red Flag Alert data from the company showed that 6,781 firms here were classed as being in 'significant' or early distress between January and March 2019.

It includes companies which have had winding-up petitions or county court judgments of more than £5,000 levelled against them.

While the total is 1% down on the number recorded in early 2018, Begbies Traynor, which operates from Belfast, said there had been a 128% rise in Northern Ireland businesses it considered as being in 'critical' distress since last year.

Businesses considered in critical distress includes those made subject to minor county court judgments, or those showing a marked deterioration in their finances.

The insolvency experts said that uncertainty and falling consumer confidence has hit construction and retail firms in particular.

Between January and March 2019, Begbies Traynor said 15 Northern Ireland building firms were classed as being in critical distress.

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It compares with just four in the first three months of 2018.

The new report found four retailers here had entered 'critical' distress last quarter, compared with just one business during the same period last year. The insolvency firm also said that the number of retail businesses here in 'advanced' distress in the first quarter of 2019 had doubled from the 2018 report.

Speaking yesterday, Lawrence O'Hara, who heads Begbies Traynor's operation here, said: "Unfortunately, we are continuing to see an upsurge with advanced distress here as both businesses and consumers face the unknown.

"One of our most important sectors, construction, is bearing the brunt which is likely to have a knock-on effect on many other sectors.

"We are also seeing falling consumer confidence adding to the many challenges facing retail," said Mr O'Hara.

"However, on a more positive note, the global popularity of the Game Of Thrones TV series is helping to bring more visitors to the province, with falling levels of both early and advanced distress in travel and tourism."

However, Mr O'Hara added that "while the latest official figures for the first quarter of 2019 show that unemployment in Northern Ireland was even lower than in the rest of the UK, there are concerns that we are seeing growing redundancies as more businesses fail.

"And this too will have a negative impact on the local economy."

Belfast Telegraph