Coronavirus - The Impact on NZ Business

We are all responding to the various impacts of Covid-19 containment measures over the past days. The Government has ordered wide ranging travel and event restrictions although it is important to note the restrictions apply to people and not goods and services.

NZ is in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak but many small and medium-sized businesses are already feeling its effects on cashflow to which will be added impending cost increases such as the 1 April increase in the minimum wage.

From the commentary we have seen it is possible that our summer has insulated us from the worst of the virus to date, however that could change as we move into colder temperatures. It is also likely that spending across all sectors (except perhaps government) is down as families and individuals react to the uncertainty that is emerging. Certainly hospitality, events, and tourism are taking a big hit. In some areas, industries such as logging have not worked for 5 weeks or so.

Discussion has been that a 30% drop in revenue is forecast. If that becomes reality many businesses large and small will struggle. The message to support businesses is for consumers to try to live as normally as possible and that includes maintaining your spending habits as best and as safely as you can, and to look after yourself and those around you. In other words “Support your local”. This could reduce the harm that enforced isolation has on the country and its communities and businesses.

The first option to assist you and/or your business is to check what insurances you have to cover your business and personal issues. Read Here - Chapman Tripp - COVID-19 business protection check list

Banks and financiers may also be able assist. The RB measures to reduce the interest rate will probably have a small impact. The larger impact will be from the RB deferring the increase in capital that banks hold, and will support any increase in the banks’ ability but not necessarily willingness to lend further or to reschedule repayments, as we expect that the fundamental rules around lending will continue to apply. So a sound underlying business with good history and prospects, security and cashflow will be required.

The government support package announced yesterday is aimed to inject money into the economy to support job retention. The sick leave and one off 12 week wage subsidy packages look to be available to every business that has experienced or expects to experience a 30% or more drop in revenue due to Covid 19. There are limits to how much each of the packages will assist for example the wages subsidy is capped at $7,029.60 per employee working 20 hours or more per week and $150,000 per employer. Assuming a 40 hour week the subsidy will assist business payroll funding by paying $14.62 per hour per employee up to a maximum of $150,000. As the subsidy does not abate, the per hour impact of the subsidy increases if employees work less hours until the minimum subsidy per employee of $350.00 per week for employees working less than 20 hours per week kicks in.

Some steps toward mitigation need to have been taken such as discussions with your bank, and you have a best endeavours obligation to maintain employment levels and to pay each employee at least 80% of their normal income for the subsidy period.

While property owners receive some other income tax support with cashflow impacts into the years ahead, unfortunately for those who lease there is no other support than the wages subsidy.

For businesses which have lost large percentages of revenue and support either a large number of employees, or have high fixed overheads the government measures will make some difference but probably not enough to trade without running the risk of breaching directors duties, if the company trades while insolvent.

So despite the support package it seems inevitable that some businesses will close, and possibly never re open unless arrangements can be made with their creditors.

If maintaining your business is too hard – there are a range of options

If your business was facing difficult times pre coronavirus and the impact of coronavirus is the last straw, then we can provide a number of options to wind up your company. If you think you can trade out and it is time that is needed to pay suppliers, then a formal or informal compromise with creditors may be an answer.

It is our business to help struggling businesses and to provide stress free advice. We seek to bring an end to messy situations and we are here to support you/your business. We may not always have the answer you want to hear, but we can offer options.

Some early advice is:
* If you are having difficulties or concerns about meeting your normal tax obligations due to the effects of COVID-19, Inland Revenue has a range of ways to help depending on your circumstances.
* Get in contact with your bank if you’re experiencing cash flow issues, especially in regards to loans repayments or lack of funding. They might be able to help or put you in touch with someone who can.
* Support local business
* Be health conscious
* Get advice if by trading you could be creating serous loss to suppliers/creditors
* Seek advice from your Chartered Accountant or Trusted advisor

Options for insolvent/struggling companies are:
* Company Compromises
* Voluntary Administration
* Liquidation
* Receivership

We assist companies and individuals facing financial difficulties through a range of insolvency services including liquidations, company compromises and receiverships. Our specialist advisors will guide you through your options.

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