146,000 zombie companies in UK

Eight per cent of UK companies on brink of insolvency.

There are 146,000 "zombie businesses" teetering on the edge of solvency, according to insolvency body R3.

A zombie company is one that is near the point of insolvency but just able to survive – neither failing nor thriving. R3 claims this equates to 8 per ecnt of UK businesses, which are only able to pay the interest on their debts but not tackle payments around the debt itself.

Lee Manning, R3 president, said, "The implication here is that these businesses have been ‘running on empty’ for quite some time now and with no reserves left in the tank, they may not be able to carry on for much longer.

"Essentially, a zombie business is one that is on the edge of insolvency but has been holding on, often for a prolonged period of time. An insolvent business is one that is unable to pay its debts when they fall due, or a business that has debts greater than the value of its assets. The danger for businesses that are teetering on the edge is that any change of circumstances, such as a rise in interest rates, the loss of a major customer, or suppliers upping their prices, will mean that they will not be able to hang on any longer."

R3 identifies three defining features of a zombie company: having to negotiate payment terms with suppliers; struggling to pay debts; and, facing the probability that if interest rates rise, they will be unable to service debts at all.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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