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.

This article continues in economia.

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This is a news story from economia.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.