Welcome to the February 2021 issue of Credit Management News Digest. This issue is sponsored by Credendo.

UK Late Payment, Cashflow & Insolvencies
630,000 UK businesses are now in significant financial distress. The latest Red Flag Alert research has recorded that 630,000 UK businesses were in ‘significant distress’ in Q4 2000, after the largest numerical quarterly leap (73,000) in financially distressed companies since Q2 2017. This represents a 27% increase since Q4 2019. All of the 22 sectors monitored by the Red Flag Alert research exhibited an increase in significant distress in Q4, with 18 sectors experiencing double-digit increases. However, Begbies Traynor stresses that as the COVID pandemic has reduced UK court activity (limiting the number of CCJs and winding up petitions being issued against indebted companies) and there has been a ban on winding up petitions for COVID-related debts, these figures are likely to be "the tip of a very large iceberg." To read Begbies Traynor's news release go to https://www.begbies-traynorgroup.com/news/business-health-statistics/news/firm-news/630000-uk-businesses-now-in-significant-financial-distress-as-new-lockdown-comes-into-effect.
At least 250,000 UK small businesses are set to fold without further help. The latest quarterly Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Small Business Index (SBI) has indicated that a record number of small business owners are planning to close their firms over the coming twelve months, putting the UK on course to lose more than a quarter of a million businesses. Just under 5% of the 1,400 firms surveyed for the study say they expect to close this year, although this figure does not reflect the threat of closure faced by those hoping to survive despite having frozen their operations, reduced headcounts or taken on significant debt. The proportion is at an all-time high for the SBI, which launched in the wake of the financial crash, and is more than double that recorded at the same point 12 months ago. To read the FSB's news release go to https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources-page/at-least-250-000-uk-small-businesses-set-to-fold-without-further-help-new-study-warns.html
The number of UK listed companies at risk of insolvency has doubled. According to the latest EY Profit Warnings Report, there was a surge in the number of UK listed companies issuing three or more profit warnings during 2020. The 2020 total (62) was almost double that of 2019 when there were 32, and more than double the 31 recorded in 2018. This represents 5% of all UK listed companies and 10% of the FTSE 350. According to EY, typically up to one in five of these companies enter Administration within 12 months of the third warning. The research also found that a total of 583 profit warnings were issued overall by UK listed companies in 2020 - the highest annual total in 21 years of EY research and 15% higher than the previous record. This historic high contrasts with very low levels of corporate insolvency. To read EY's news release go to https://www.ey.com/en_uk/news/2021/01/the-number-of-uk-listed-companies-at-risk-of-insolvency.
UK directors back plans for stronger late payment powers. According to new figures from the Institute of Directors (IoD), the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the late payments burden hitting UK businesses. Over a third of company directors polled by the IoD said they had faced an increase in late payments during the pandemic, with almost one in ten reporting they had experienced significantly more problems than usual. To help solve the problem, business leaders polled by the IoD were most likely to favour stricter penalties to penalise late payments, followed by giving the Small Business Commissioner powers to issue binding monetary awards in connection with disputes. Roger Barker, Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors, commented: “Giving the Commissioner real teeth could send a strong signal that malpractice won’t be tolerated.” To read the Iod's news release go to https://www.iod.com/news-campaigns/press-office/details/Directors-back-plans-for-stronger-late-payment-powers.
UK administrations fall to a historic low. The number of companies going into administration fell to historic lows during 2020, as the array of government COVID-19 support measures continue to provide a lifeline for those businesses who have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Analysis of notices in The Gazette by KPMG’s Restructuring practice showed that 1,112 UK companies went into administration over the course of 2020 – the lowest annual total since KPMG started tracking the data in 2005 and a fall of 22% on 2019. Blair Nimmo, Head of Restructuring for KPMG in the UK, said: “We need to be clear, however, that these figures provide a distorted view of reality. . . At some point, rent and tax deferrals and loans will need to be repaid. The Job Retention Scheme will unwind. Weaning off these support schemes is going to be a massive challenge for many.” To read KPMG's news release go to https://home.kpmg/uk/en/home/media/press-releases/2021/01/administrations-fall-to-historic-low.html.
UK Trade Sectors & Economy
The UK's economic performance in Q1 2021 is likely to be worst among G7 economies. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has reported that the resurgence of COVID-19 has led to a downward revision in its UK economic growth forecast in Q1 2021, from 5.9% to 3.4%, and has warned that the effects of COVID-19, together with Brexit, is creating a severe downturn, with "long-term scarring" across all regions. Furthermore, NIESR warns that there are major risks to the downside associated with the roll-out and effectiveness of vaccines and the emergence of new COVID-19 strains. NIESR Deputy Director, Dr Hande Kucuk, said: “By 2025, the level of GDP is forecast to be around 6% lower compared with pre-COVID-19 expectations.” To read NIESR's news release go to https://www.niesr.ac.uk/media/niesr-press-release-uk-economic-outlook-uk-economic-performance-first-quarter-2021-likely-be.
The UK economy looks likely to avoid a double-dip recession. According to the EY ITEM Club’s Winter Forecast, the UK economy contracted by a better-than-anticipated 2.6% in November, with Q4 2020 now expected to register a flat performance. This means while the latest COVID-19 restrictions are expected to cause a 3% to 4% contraction in Q1 2021, the absence of a contraction in Q4 means the UK may, just, avoid its first double-dip recession since the 1970s. EY ITEM Club now estimates that the UK economy shrank by a record 10.1% in 2020 - an improvement on its December forecast of an 11.6% contraction. Looking ahead, EY's latest forecast predicts growth of 5.0% in 2021 and 6.5% in 2022; suggesting that the UK economy could regain its pre-COVID-19 peak by Q3 2022. To read EY's news release go to https://www.ey.com/en_uk/news/2021/01/uk-economy-could-avoid-a-double.
UK growth in 2021 could be anywhere between 2.2% and 5.6%. According to KPMG’s latest Economic Outlook, economic recovery in the UK this year is largely dependent on progress in combating the pandemic, with the length and severity of social distancing restrictions key to the growth outlook. Uncertainty about progress could see growth in 2021 oscillate between 5.6% (in KPMG’s upside scenario) and 2.2% (downside scenario). KPMG's main scenario of 4.2% GDP growth in 2021 could see the UK economy return to its pre-COVID level by the first quarter of 2023. In addition, KPMG warns that while the UK managed to secure a deal with the EU, avoiding significant disruptions to trade, the realities of the new trading relation will seep growth away from the economy at least for a while. To read KPMG's news release go to https://home.kpmg/uk/en/home/media/press-releases/2021/01/short-term-forecasts-downgraded-due-to-third-lockdown.html.
COVID-19 vaccine rollout could help the UK economy recover rapidly. New data from the Bank of England (BoE) notes that although the economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the UK economy is not expected to be as severe as during the UK's first lockdown in Q2 2020, GDP is nevertheless expected to fall by around 4% in Q1 2021. However, looking ahead, and despite an "unusually uncertain" outlook, as the vaccination programme leads to an easing of COVID-related restrictions, the BoE anticipate a brighter outlook. GDP projected to recover rapidly towards pre-COVID-19 levels during 2021, with growth of 5% for the year as a whole. In 2020, in comparison, the BoE calculate that GDP growth contracted by 10%. To read the BoE's news release go to https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/monetary-policy-report/2021/february/monetary-policy-report-february-2021.pdf.
UK medium-sized businesses struggle as lockdown restrictions continue. New data released by BDO shows how lockdown is taking its toll on UK medium-sized businesses, with nearly half (49%) warning that they could cease trading in less than two months if restrictions do not ease. If the current lockdown lasts a further three months into April, 82% say they would be at serious risk. BDO’s research also identified that mid-tier companies have borrowed an average of £8 million per business as a direct result of the pandemic, with almost half (45%) unsure that they will be able to pay back their loans under the current funding arrangements. Almost a third (31%) believe the Government should extend repayment terms on COVID-19 loans. To read BDO's news release go to https://www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/news/2021/medium-sized-businesses-struggle-as-lockdown-restrictions-continue.
By the end of 2021, UK firms will have borrowed over £60 billion through the pandemic. According to the latest EY ITEM Club for Financial Services Forecast, UK firms borrowed £35.5 billion (in net terms) last year - £25 billion more than was borrowed on average over the previous five years, with a further £26 billion forecast by the end of 2021. EY estimates that many businesses are unlikely to start making inroads into repaying their debt until 2024. Anna Anthony, UK Financial Services Managing Partner at EY, commented: "By the end of this year, businesses will have borrowed in the region of £60 billion net since the start of the pandemic, which is a colossal amount, especially as for many it is just about survival, not expansion or growth. And the prospect of some, if not many firms, not being able to make the required repayments is concerning for all involved." To read EY's news release go to https://www.ey.com/en_uk/news/2021/02/by-the-end-of-2021-uk-firms-will-have-borrowed-over-p60bn-through-the-pandemic.
UK shop vacancies increase. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has reported that the overall GB vacancy rate increased to 13.7% in the fourth quarter of 2020, from 13.2% in Q3. This is 1.6% higher than the same point in 2019 and marks the tenth consecutive quarter of increasing vacancy rates. All locations saw an increase in vacancies in Q4, with Shopping Centre vacancies increasing to 17.1% from Q3’s 16.3%, while UK High Street vacancies increased to 13.7% in Q4, up from 13.3% in Q3. Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: "Over the past two years, one in every 50 outlets has permanently closed, and this number will only go up. The big increase in vacancy rates during the crucial golden retail quarter, when demand is usually high, serves as a stark reminder of the pandemic’s impact." To read BRC's news release go to https://brc.org.uk/news/corporate-affairs/shop-vacancies-increase-as-crisis-deepens/.
First negative January result on record, as UK retail sales plunge by -10%. According to BDO’s latest High Street Sales Tracker, total like-for-like sales, combined in-store and online, declined by -10.0% in January 2021 - albeit from a very good base of +7.0% for the equivalent month last year. Non-store sales, however, soared to their best result on record in January (+132.8%) as lockdown restrictions shuttered bricks-and-mortar outlets once again. This boost in online activity prevented sales from falling to the depths of the first national lockdown, though January’s result (-10.0%) still marked the worst monthly total like-for-like result since June (-14.4%). Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, commented: “You would normally see positive growth at the start of the year thanks to the post-Christmas sales, but this year retailers experienced a bleak January after a very lacklustre Christmas." To read BDO's news release go to https://www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/news/2021/first-negative-january-result-on-record,-as-retail-sales-plunge.
January blues for UK retailers as sales volumes fall. According to the latest monthly CBI Distributive Trades Survey, UK retail sales volumes fell in the year to January after having been broadly stable in December. Among the sub-sectors, grocers and furniture retailers reported flat sales, while the remaining sub-sectors (including clothing and recreational goods) registered sharp declines. Online sales eased slightly to around their long-run average. Looking ahead, sales are expected to remain similarly weak for the time of year in February. Ben Jones, CBI Principal Economist, commented: "On the upside, while the headline balance points to a fall in sales across many sub-sectors, the experience of the past few months suggests the decline won’t be anything like as severe as in spring 2020." To read the CBI's news release go to https://www.cbi.org.uk/media-centre/articles/january-blues-for-retailers-as-sales-volumes-fall-cbi/.
The UK manufacturing outlook remains dim. According to the latest CBI quarterly Industrial Trends Survey, UK manufacturing output stabilised in the quarter to January 2021 (-2% from -6% in December), following fifteen consecutive months of decline. The survey of UK manufacturers also found that total new orders fell moderately (-12% from -3% in October), after stabilising in the quarter to October, and prior to that, falling for five quarters in a row. A sharp decline was seen in domestic orders (-20%), while export orders fell at a similar pace to October. Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Chief Economist, commented: “Output was broadly flat in this month’s quarterly survey, with the picture varying in different sectors. Manufacturers across the board are continuing to battle major headwinds, with domestic and export orders notably falling." To read the CBI's news release go to https://www.cbi.org.uk/media-centre/articles/manufacturing-outlook-remains-outlook-cbi-quarterly-industrial-trends-survey/.
COVID-19 prompts a radical rethink of UK manufacturing supply chains. According to a new survey from BDO LLP, 59% of UK manufacturing businesses are planning to introduce dual or multi-sourcing for key components in an effort to avoid the supply disruptions caused by COVID-19, while 46% say they plan to create a UK-focused supply chain. Overall, almost 9 in 10 UK manufacturers said they had reviewed their supply chains in response to the pandemic. Commenting on the findings, Richard Austin, BDO’s Head of Manufacturing said: “Many manufacturers are recognising that they will need to invest more in technology which provides end-to-end visibility across the supply chain in real-time and which provides the information required under EU export Rules of Origin from 1st January 2022. For many, this will be critical in managing supply chain risks, reducing the likelihood of production stoppages and ensuring potential trading tariffs are avoided." To read BDO's news release go to https://www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/news/2021/covid-19-prompts-radical-rethink-of-manufacturing-supply-chains.
Europe & Global Economy
The global economy is recovering but at an uneven pace. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has warned that although it does not expect global GDP growth to halt, the new wave of the virus means that the global economic outlook remains highly uncertain. NIESR's main-case scenario, which is based on further lockdowns being local (rather than global) and a gradual vaccine rollout, predicts that global GDP will increase by around 4.5% this year and 3.75% next year. The recovery in GDP will differ across economies, with GDP in some advanced economies (including major European economies and Japan) forecast to remain below their pre-pandemic level until 2022 or later. China, in contrast, is already above its pre-pandemic GDP level. To read NIESR's news release go to https://www.niesr.ac.uk/media/niesr-press-release-global-economic-outlook-global-economy-recovering-uneven-pace-across.
2020 saw the worst peacetime global contraction since the Great Depression. The IMF has advised it estimates that world economic GDP contracted by -3.5% in 2020,  "somewhat less dire" than previously projected (-4.4%) owing to stronger-than-expected growth in the second half of last year. Despite this, it remains the worst peacetime global contraction since the Great Depression. Looking ahead,  the global economy is projected to grow by 5.5% in 2021 and 4.2% in 2022, but because of the partial nature of the rebound over 150 economies are expected to still have per-capita incomes below their 2019 levels in 2021 (reducing to 110 economies in 2022). In contrast, China returned to its pre-pandemic projected level in Q4 2020, and the US is projected to surpass its pre-COVID levels this year - well ahead of the euro area. To read the IMF's blog go to https://blogs.imf.org/2021/01/26/a-race-between-vaccines-and-the-virus-as-recoveries-diverge/.
GDP down by 0.7% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU. According to a preliminary flash estimate published by Eurostat, in the fourth quarter of 2020, GDP decreased by 0.7% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU compared with the previous quarter. The estimate notes that these declines, related to COVID-19 containment measures, follow a strong rebound in the third quarter of 2020 (+12.4% in the euro area and +11.5% in the EU) and are the sharpest decreases since time series started in 1995. Among the Member States, Austria (-4.3%) recorded the highest decrease compared to the previous quarter, followed by Italy (-2.0%) and France (-1.3%) while Lithuania (+1.2%) and Latvia (+1.1%) recorded the highest increases. To reach Eurostat's news release go to https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/portlet_file_entry/2995521/2-02022021-AP-EN.pdf/0e84de9c-0462-6868-df3e-dbacaad9f49f.
Global Economic Outlook predicts a rebound in 2021. Atradius' latest Global Economic Outlook forecasts that, as countries gradually emerge from their lockdowns, global GDP will recover by 5.0% in 2021, following a 3.9% contraction in 2020. Advanced markets as a group are expected to rebound by 3.9% in 2021, after a 5.0% decline in 2020, with a partial recovery of 4.2% predicted to occur in the eurozone this year and a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022. In addition, US economic recovery is expected to gain momentum in Q2, with GDP forecast to grow by 4.2% in 2021. However, although a global rebound is expected, Atradius also cautions that there is considerable uncertainty around its baseline forecast, warning that a stretched wave of global infections is likely to significantly reduce GDP growth in 2021. To read Atradius' news release go to https://group.atradius.com/publications/economic-research/global-economic-outlook-february-2021.html.
Virtual Events
GTR MENA 2021 Virtual, 15-17 February 2021.
Global Trade Review's annual trade and export finance conference, GTR MENA, will return in 2021 as a hybrid event, providing an extended offering as the region’s leading gathering for networking and knowledge sharing, with a virtual event on February 15-17 and a physical event on September 29. Proceedings for the year will kick off with GTR MENA 2020 Virtual on February 15-17, set to welcome over 1,500 participants and featuring the chance to hear the latest insights and developments from experts on the most pertinent issues impacting on MENA trade, utilising a mixture of live-streamed and pre-recorded content and fostering a new way of networking via GTR’s dedicated virtual event platform.
As part of its hybrid offering for 2021, GTR MENA will also descend on Dubai in September for an exclusive one-day physical gathering. This will include an extensive programme, full exhibition and that much missed opportunity for participants to hold face-to-face discussions with industry peers and potential clients. 
VIRTUAL EVENT LINK: https://bit.ly/2VT3Q1e 
PHYSICAL EVENT LINK: https://bit.ly/3gnBJk8
GTR India 2021 Virtual, 10-11 March 2021.
GTR India will return in 2021 as a hybrid event, offering an extended offering as the country’s leading trade-based gathering for networking and knowledge sharing, with a virtual event on March 10-11 and a physical event in Mumbai in October.
For over 15 years GTR India has provided critical market insight combined with unrivalled networking opportunities with leading experts on the country’s trade environment and trade finance sector. Both events will delve into the most pertinent discussion topics impacting Indian #trade and #exports, from supply chain challenges, geopolitical considerations (including free trade agreements), support for exporters, digitisation drives and the measures taken across both public and private sector to aid business recovery.
VIRTUAL EVENT LINK: https://bit.ly/36VQ4By.
PHYSICAL EVENT LINK: https://bit.ly/36VbT48.
National Credit Awards 2021. 21 October 2021. The Waldorf Hilton, London.
New for 2021, MoneyAge is proud to present the National Credit Awards.
The awards are designed to honour the outstanding professionals and firms in the many varied fields of the credit industry, to recognise, celebrate, and promote best practice, to support continuing development, and to contribute towards raising the standards within the credit arena.
The awards are free to enter and you can enter as many categories as you like.
Head over to the website to find out more.
SUBMIT YOUR ENTRY: https://www.moneyage.co.uk/creditawards/index.php.
Deadline for entries: 25 June 2021
GTR West Africa 2021 Virtual, 24-25 March 2021.
GTR West Africa will return in 2021 virtually, providing an extended digital offering as the region’s leading event for trade discussion and networking on March 24-25.
Encompassing all the key aspects of the live conference experience through GTR’s established virtual event format, this hugely anticipated gathering will combine the highest level content with bountiful networking opportunities via our dedicated platform.
Harnessing the vast potential of technology for connecting West African trade leaders with their peers, this online gathering promises a comprehensive programme of live and on-demand debate, discussion and engagement, welcoming the region’s leading practitioners in trade, export and commodity finance to explore the latest developments, strategies and solutions employed to drive growth.
LINK: https://bit.ly/36XnLTf
GTR East Africa 2021 Virtual. 12-13 May 2021.
Following the success of the inaugural virtual event in October 2020, GTR East Africa will return once again in a digital form for 2021, taking place on May 12-13, 2021. Utilising GTR’s bespoke virtual event platform, this online gathering promises expansive networking and an extensive and comprehensive programme of live and on-demand content, welcoming the leading practitioners in trade, agribusiness, supply chain and commodity finance. Join industry experts from across the region to explore the latest developments, strategies and solutions employed to drive East African trade growth. LINK: https://bit.ly/3gphJ0x.
About the Sponsor: Credendo
For 100 years, Credendo has been forging strong links between entrepreneurs and their export markets, as well as creating tailor-made solutions, for large companies and SMEs.
Credendo is a European credit insurance group that is present all over the continent and active in all segments of trade credit and political risk insurance, providing a range of products that cover risks worldwide.
We are the first-choice business partner to protect against the risks of trade and investments in the real economy and to facilitate the financing of such transactions.
Our mission is to support trade relations.
We provide customised solutions of insurance, reinsurance, guarantees, bonding and financing related to domestic and international trade transactions or investments abroad. We protect companies, banks and insurance undertakings against credit and political risks or facilitate the financing of such transactions.

Full spectrum of political and commercial risks
Tit-for-tat retaliation, return of protectionism and political backlashes are making headlines.
Our single risk insurance policies can help any corporate to trade more effectively worldwide by protecting them against the full spectrum of political and commercial risks associated with doing business overseas. Our products also support banks and financial institutions by protecting their interests in financial contracts and investment projects. We work in partnership with our clients to establish the cover they need in line with their business strategies. Our specialists offer an excellent track record in assessing emerging markets- country risks, proven know-how and experience in insuring complex transactions, and substantial insurance capacity backed by our excellent credit ratings.
Find out more about Credendo at www.credendo.com or email at c.ramillon@credendo.com.
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