June 2020 saw the New Zealand Government declare the country “virus free” after 17 days of no new COVID-19 cases and a move to Level 1 on 9 June 2020, ahead of schedule. With the exception of border control restrictions, all COVID-19 related restrictions imposed during Lockdown were lifted.
The post-Lockdown experience for SMEs has been varied. Some have seen incredible community support and are feeling confident about their futures, notwithstanding the difficult quarter they have just experienced. Others are struggling to adjust to the post-Lockdown economy and many are being confronted with difficult decisions on what their businesses will need to look like, if those businesses are to survive in the medium term.
Moving Forward – What Might Be On The Horizon?
The second half of 2020 is likely to be just as unpredictable as the first half. While the difference in corporate insolvency figures between the first half and second half of 2018 and 2019 were only marginally different (less than 5%), the decrease in insolvency activity caused by Lockdown is unlikely to repeat itself in the second half of 2020.
The first quarter of 2020 saw corporate insolvency rates decrease by 8% and personal insolvency rates increase by 9% when compared to 2019 while the second quarter of 2020 saw corporate insolvencies decrease by 23% and personal insolvencies fall by 34% when compared to the same period in 2019.
The economy is likely to be a hot topic over the next quarter, as political parties launch their election campaigns ahead of the General Election on 19 September 2020. The steps taken by the Government in response to COVID-19 saw huge borrowing and spending by the Government to support the economy during and post-Lockdown. This debt will need to be repaid at some point in the future but by who, how and when is still an unknown.
- The next quarter should be an interesting one. Some of the factors at play suggest we should see a decrease in insolvency activity ahead of us while other considerations suggest an increase in activity is on the horizon:
- Historically, insolvency appointments in June have been lower than in both May and July so, if the patter holds true, we expect the insolvency figures to increase in July 2020.
- Insolvency appointments tend to slow in the quarter leading up to a General Election, as many Government Departments ease back on recovery action.
- Banks and other lending institutions usually slow their recovery actions and insolvency appointments leading up to an election and again in the period leading up to Christmas.
- The wage subsidy and the wage subsidy extension periods will come to an end for many businesses in the next quarter. The Government has announced that the wage subsidy will not be extended further. Businesses whose revenue has not recovered sufficiently will likely be considering redundancies, restructurings, and/or closing their doors.
- Decreases in many people’s disposable income when compared to 12 months ago means that many are not able to spend to support SMEs.
- Many people who took mortgage holidays in response to COVID-19 will have those mortgage holidays end in the second half of 2020 and, while interest rates are low, serviceability will remain an issue because of decreased incomes and revenues.
- The application deadline for the Government’s COVID-19 Small Business Cashflow Scheme has been extended to 31 December 2020.
We are now through the first half 2020. Here’s what the insolvency space looked like over this period. Note: Figures were correct as at date of publishing.
Company Insolvencies – Liquidations, Receiverships, and Voluntary Administrations
There were 122 new insolvency appointments in June 2020, which brings the total appointments for 2020 to 795. Insolvency appointments in June 2020 were 23% lower than in June 2019 (150) and 54% lower than in 2018 (188).
June 2020 saw a 30% decrease in insolvency appointments when compared to May 2020 (158). A similar drop (29%) in appointments occurred between May 2019 and June 2019 (193 cf 150). While June 2018 saw few appointments than May 2018, the decrease was only 9% (204 cf 188).
Court appointments in June 2020 (30) were also back to levels consistent with March 2020 (27) and May 2020 (34), with April 2020 (2) – when the Court suspended all non-urgent hearings – being the outlier.
Insolvency appointments for the first half of 2020 are 20% lower than the same period in 2019 and 40% lower than in 2018. By comparison, insolvency appointments decreased by 16% in the first half of 2019 when compared to 2018.
Personal Insolvencies - Bankruptcy
Personal insolvencies in April 2020 (50) were the lowest number recorded since at least July 2003 (the earliest records we sighted).
May 2020 saw a 32% increase (66) on April 2020 and June 2020 figures were up by 20% (82) when compared to May 2020. The number of personal insolvencies in June 2020 (82) was similar to June 2019 (81) but the number of NAPs (75) was 39% lower than in 2019 (104).
With the exception of April 2020, debtor initiated bankruptcies between March 2020 and June 2020 were between 64% and 68% of all bankruptcies. The only High Court to make adjudication orders in April 2020 (when Lockdown restrictions started to ease) was Auckland, with 10 adjudications being made.