The Difference between Liquidation and Receivership

In corporate insolvency, two common terms often arise: liquidation and receivership. For businesses facing financial distress in New Zealand, it is helpful to understand the distinctions between these two processes. To gain an understanding we explore the disparities between liquidation and receivership, shedding light on their respective implications and outcomes.

Liquidation: The Dissolution of a Company

Liquidation, also commonly referred to as winding up, is a formal process that leads to the dissolution of a company. It is typically employed when a company is no longer able to pay its debts and is deemed insolvent. It is also used by solvent companies that have made capital gains and seek to distribute the capital gain tax free on liquidation. The objective of liquidation is to realize the company's assets, pay off its debts to the greatest extent possible, and ultimately distribute any remaining funds to the shareholders. In a solvent liquidation this is paying creditors fully and distributing capital gains tax free on liquidation.

Key Aspects of Liquidation:

1. Appointment of a Liquidator: When a company enters liquidation, a liquidator is appointed. The liquidator's primary role is to gather and sell the company's assets, settle its outstanding debts, and distribute any remaining funds to creditors and shareholders in accordance with the priority set by law.
2. Voluntary Liquidation: occurs when shareholders resolve to wind up the company, typically due to financial difficulties. This requires a 75% majority in number/value of shareholders. Court appointed liquidation, on the other hand, is initiated by external parties, such as creditors, through a court order.
3. Court Liquidation, on the other hand is initiated by external parties, such as creditors, through a court order.
4. Ceasing Operations: Upon commencement of the liquidation process, the company ceases to operate. The liquidator takes control of its affairs, sells off assets, and wraps up any outstanding business. Sometimes the company is traded to be sold as a going concern.

Implications of Liquidation:

• Loss of Control: In liquidation, the company's management loses control, and the liquidator assumes responsibility for its affairs.
• Dissolution: Liquidation ultimately leads to the dissolution of the company, ceasing its existence as a legal entity.
• Job Losses: Liquidation often results in the termination of employment for company employees, unless the business or certain assets are sold and continue operating under new ownership.
• Creditors in an insolvent liquidation are not paid fully and are faced with bad debts. Some then pursue personal guarantees.

Receivership: Protecting the Interests of Creditors

Receivership is a process designed to safeguard the interests of secured creditors who hold specific charges or security over a company's assets. It is initiated when a company defaults on its obligations to the secured creditor, and the creditor exercises its right to appoint a receiver to recover the debt owed.

Key Aspects of Receivership:

1. Appointment of a Receiver: When a company is placed into receivership, a receiver is appointed by the secured creditor. The receiver's primary role is to take control of the company's assets, manage them, and use the proceeds to repay the debt owed to the secured creditor.
2. Priority of Secured Creditors: In receivership, the secured creditor who appointed the receiver generally has priority over other creditors in terms of repayment. Specific security holders however have a super priority. Preferential creditors such as Inland Revenue and employees are entitled to be paid ahead of general security holders from unencumbered stock / debtor realisations. The receiver's primary duty is to act in the interest of the secured creditor and maximize the recovery of the debt owed to them.
3. Continuation of Operations: In some cases, a receiver may continue operating the business with the objective of maximizing its value and ensuring a higher recovery for the secured creditor. However, if the receiver determines that it is not viable to continue operations, they may opt to sell the company's assets to repay the debt.

Implications of Receivership:

• Limited Scope: Receivership is limited to securing and realizing the assets held as security for the specific creditor's debt. It does not encompass the broader dissolution of the company. Often a company that faces receivership later faces liquidation.
• Focus on Secured Creditor's Interests: The receiver works exclusively in the best interest of the secured creditor who appointed them, aiming to maximize the recovery of the debt owed to that creditor (and also accounting to specific security holders and preferential creditors). Other creditors may have limited or no access to the assets being managed by the receiver.
• Potential for Business Continuity: Unlike liquidation, where the company ceases to operate, receivership may allow for the continuation of business operations, depending on the receiver's assessment of viability and potential for maximizing the recovery of the debt.
• Less Impact on Employees: In receivership, the focus is primarily on the assets and debt owed to the secured creditor. While there may be some impact on employees, such as restructuring or downsizing to improve the company's financial position, the goal is to preserve the value of the assets and maintain ongoing operations.

Understanding the Differences

• While both liquidation and receivership are insolvency processes, they differ in their scope, objectives, and implications:
• Purpose: Liquidation aims to wind up and dissolve the company, settling debts and distributing remaining funds to creditors and shareholders. Receivership, on the other hand, focuses on recovering the debt owed to a secured creditor by managing and maximizing the value of specific assets.
• Appointment: In liquidation, a liquidator is appointed either voluntarily by the shareholders or through a court order and sometimes if the constitution states, by the board of directors. In receivership, a receiver is appointed by a secured creditor exercising their right to recover their debt under their security documentation.
• Control and Continuity: Liquidation results in the loss of control for the company's management, with the liquidator taking charge of the assets. In receivership, the receiver manages the assets, but there may be a possibility of continuing business operations to maximize the recovery for the secured creditor.
• Impact on Employees: Liquidation most often leads to job losses as the company ceases operations. In receivership, the focus is on the assets and debt owed to the secured creditor, although there may be some impact on employees if restructuring is necessary.


• Understanding the differences between liquidation and receivership is crucial for businesses in New Zealand facing financial distress. While liquidation involves winding up the company and distributing funds to creditors and shareholders, receivership is focused on protecting the interests of secured creditors and maximizing the recovery of specific debts.
• By grasping the differences between these two processes, businesses can make informed decisions about the most appropriate course of action for their financial situation. Seeking professional advice from licensed insolvency practitioners is highly recommended.  Contact  or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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