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IFT and Macfarlanes publish update on the business funding landscape

Today The Institute for Turnaround (The IFT) and Macfarlanes published a report outlining recent trends in the business funding landscape in the UK and looking forward to what we might expect to see as we move through the remainder of 2024.

The report includes a discussion of the outlook for private equity sponsors and corporate borrowers, private credit funds, real estate debt and how private credit fund lenders are dealing with corporate borrowers in financial distress.  It highlights the improving outlook in 2024 compared to 2023, with the beginnings of a resettling of inflation and the expectation of interest rate cuts, expected to lead to an increase in UK M&A activity.

For private equity sponsors and corporate borrowers, there is very significant liquidity waiting to be deployed, a growing number of companies waiting to be exited as part of the typical investment cycle, and cheaper debt as well as demand from investors to see returns on capital.

Moving through 2024, private credit funds will also be looking to provide buy-out financing and satisfy a strong appetite for deployment, as well as exploring new strategies such as net asset value (NAV) basis lending and specific asset class strategies. The increased presence of private credit funds in the real estate debt space is likely to be bolstered by the recent growth of operational real estate.

Nevertheless, across the various types of funding, caution and discernment in relation to deals and sales processes is likely as funders take a prudent approach in light of the macroeconomic pressures of recent years, as well as continued geopolitical instability and scrutiny of funds. For businesses experiencing financial distress private credit funds may increasingly look for the provision of additional equity or where this is not forthcoming, may begin to ramp up the pressure, either for a business to seek more external capital or make a sale.

Over 2024-25 we will see a significant number of financing deals coming to maturity, in particular as a result of sale processes as well as increased M&A volumes. Funders will be looking for overdue returns, whilst remaining conscious of the importance of good relationships and flexible approaches, especially for businesses seeing difficulties and in an increasingly competitive market.

This report forms part of a programme of work that The IFT is carrying out on the funding environment, including our Funding Conference held earlier this year in association with Macfarlanes. Later in the year we will expand on the themes covered in the report with an overview analysis of the business funding landscape based on interviews with various lenders and funds, covering how approaches and considerations can differ across funding types.

We’d like to thank Macfarlanes for working with us on this report and providing their expert insight in this area.

You can read the report here.

PART 26A RESTRUCTURING PLANS DRIVING CONSENSUAL RESTRUCTURING, RESEARCH FINDS

Research from The Institute for Turnaround (The IFT) found that Part 26A Restructuring Plans were being considered in increasing numbers of cases and were often successful in encouraging consensual agreement.

 Further development of case law and market practice would help more SME firms take advantage of this tool.

 Part 26A Restructuring Plans, introduced under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 represent a powerful company-side, non-insolvency tool for businesses that may be experiencing financial distress due to successive global and economic pressures.

The IFT is strongly supportive of the potential for Restructuring Plans to help drive improved future financial performance to avoid unnecessary insolvencies.

In the first quarter of 2024 The IFT conducted a series of regional roundtable meetings in bringing together IFT independent members, lenders, alternative lenders, investors, lawyers, advisers and statutory and other key stakeholders.  The roundtables investigated a mixture of experiences with and views on Restructuring Plans and were supplemented with a follow-up survey to participants.

Survey respondents indicated gathering pace in the number of companies considering or proposing a Restructuring Plan to achieve the survival of a business:  51% in the past 6 months compared to 24% in the past 12 months and 12% in the past 18 months. These had been in a wide range of sectors, with the top three being retail, manufacturing, and casual dining.

Restructuring Plans had also been considered for companies of a range of sizes, with 22% of respondents considering for companies with a turnover of less than £25 million, whilst 52% had considered for companies with turnovers between £25 and £100 million or £100 million plus turnover.

41% of respondents had discussed the possibility of applying for sanction of a Restructuring Plan in negotiations for a restructuring of a business. Of those that had specifically discussed the possibility of a Restructuring Plan as part of negotiations, 70% indicated that this had helped achieve a consensual agreement. This demonstrates positive outcomes for both a company and its creditors and stakeholders. A clear message from the roundtables was also that the value that can be preserved and generated using a Restructuring Plan was substantial, as well as potentially speeding up the delivery of a turnaround.

The IFT is committed to engaging with market and other stakeholders to encourage solutions to such practical issues, recognising that the recent Court of Appeal judgment in the case of Adler helps provide clear guidelines for businesses of all sizes in relation to Restructuring Plans.

Milly Camley, CEO of The IFT said, “Part 26A Restructuring Plans are now coming of age with the Adler judgment which provides helpful guidance for businesses and stakeholders. The IFT is working with a range of stakeholders to seek to encourage engagement and development of market practice so that the full range of businesses can benefit and thrive. The roundtable discussions also highlighted the important role that IFT members can play in supporting the use of Restructuring Plans and helping to engage with stakeholders”.

You can read the report here and the survey findings here.

 

The IFT Quarterly Update: continued strong demand for turnaround support as businesses struggle with debt costs

The IFT’s quarterly update looking at turnaround and restructuring activity across sectors shows continued demand for turnaround support at the start of 2024, with 50% of The IFT’s partner firms surveyed seeing an increase in activity in Q1 2024, with the rest seeing about the same level of activity as the end of 2023.  The busiest sectors for turnaround and restructuring activity in the quarter were real estate and construction. The costs of servicing debt was the most common reason IFT partners saw for businesses experiencing distress, overtaking inflationary pressures which had been the most common factor at the end of 2023.

According to data from FRP Advisory, whilst Quarter 1 2024 saw a lower level of insolvencies than the previous quarter, there was a 2.1% increase in the number of businesses experiencing distress compared to Q4 2023. This may indicate businesses increasingly struggling with levels of debt and costs pressures after a number of difficult years, with often a need for turnaround support to help address these issues and maximise improvement.

As we move through 2024 we will have a greater sense of the degree to which businesses are able to utilise such support and avoid insolvency.

The full update can be found here: Quarterly Review Q1 2024 FINAL

With thanks to FRP Advisory and our partners who contributed to this update.

Future Proof : IFT study of younger turnaround professionals suggests they are more collaborative and solution focused

New report from The Institute for Turnaround and t-Three/Kiddy & Partners highlights key differences between younger turnaround professionals and a broader cohort of professionals 

The skills of turnaround professionals in providing immediate viability and confidence to businesses and stakeholders in those businesses, and in the transformation and adaptation of companies to new or unexpected challenges are an asset to UK plc. The recent economic backdrop has highlighted the value of turnaround in a difficult economic climate, with our latest annual Societal Impact Report highlighting that IFT accredited members saved in excess of 55,000 jobs and £2.6bn in shareholder value in the year 2022-23. When we factor in the work of our partners the number of jobs saved rises to just shy of 150,000.

Turnaround is therefore an important business discipline – a profession of professions, which will continue to be crucial for the success of UK plc. In the longer term, drivers of economic and social change – technology, trade, the geopolitical context- mean that turnaround professionals will need to support businesses to adapt and transform to the evolving landscape.

The Institute for Turnaround and t-Three/Kiddy & Partners have undertaken what we believe is the first survey looking at the characteristics and traits of younger turnaround professionals. According to the research, younger turnaround professionals demonstrate some significant differences when compared to a general population of working people.

The report, Future Proof: The Traits and Attributes of Young Turnaround Professionals, surveyed turnaround professionals from fields such as banking, law and accountancy. They completed Facet5, a globally recognized Five Factor trait personality questionnaire accredited by the British Psychological Society and designed specifically for the workplace.

The responses from participants indicated three key areas where turnaround professionals’ traits and behaviours can be distinguished from those of general employees:

  • Turnaround professionals are more likely to demonstrate behaviour which seeks to resolve differences of view and disagreement in a calm, non-argumentative way to achieve a consensual position.
  • They also show a higher tendency to share their processes and approach, favouring working collaboratively towards a successful outcome, taking into account others’ input and feedback along the way.
  • Finally, those in the participant group show a greater tendency overall towards working to high standards and hence will display a strong sense of duty, responsibility and conscientiousness.

The research highlights the distinctive traits displayed by younger turnaround professionals and also indicates some possible areas of professional development such as stakeholder management skills and strategies for dealing with confrontation. It provides a useful starting point for further research about this important profession and what skills and competencies will be required to ensure future delivery of successful turnarounds.

You can read the full report here.

The IFT’s first Quarterly Update: increasing demand for turnaround services in the face of inflationary and costs pressures

As official figures show that the UK economy entered a technical recession in the last quarter of 2023, today we publish The IFT’s first quarterly update, covering activity in the turnaround sector as well as distress and insolvency statistics for Quarter 4 2023.

This update supplements our annual Societal Impact report which surveys our independent members and corporate partner firms. Last year’s report estimated that accredited turnaround professionals saved an estimated 55,000 jobs in 2022-23, helping UK companies to add £2.6 billion in shareholder value.

The vast majority of surveyed firms specialising in turnaround saw an increase in activity in the last quarter, with construction, real estate and financial services the busiest sectors seeking turnaround expertise.

Inflationary pressures and the costs of servicing debt were the top two reasons turnaround professionals saw underlying business distress, highlighting the difficult economic context for companies seeking support.

With thanks to FRP Advisory and our partners who contributed to this update. These updates will be released on a quarterly basis to provide a snapshot of trends in the turnaround sector and business distress.

IFT Quarterly Update Q4 2023 FINAL

Institute for Turnaround welcomes publication of HMRC’s approach to Restructuring Plans

On 1 November 2023, HMRC published some new guidance outlining the approach they will take to restructuring proposals provided by companies, such as restructuring plans under Part 26A of the Companies Act 2006. 

The guidance is short and without frills but does offer some key points for companies to ensure they consider when looking to restructure debts given HMRC’s status as a key creditor. The guidance also reflects some of the key lessons that have developed from Part 26A case law to date where HMRC engagement has been crucial to the success or failure of plans.

Firstly, HMRC is clear that they will only support restructuring proposals where they believe there is a “realistic chance of succeeding” (emphasis added).  They outline that companies must be prepared to explain why they consider the plan to be realistic and in particular that HMRC will critically examine projections of future income and expenditure, comparing it to previous history and assurance. All tax returns must be filed and HMRC need to be satisfied that the company will be able to pay future debts to them as they are due.

The guidance therefore makes clear that companies and their advisers need to be mindful of previous dealings and filings with HMRC and be prepared to explain any previous issues with taxes, as well as to defend future assumptions and calculations. Robust figures and independent evidence are crucial.

Another consideration of HMRC highlighted is the approach taken to payments of other creditors ahead of HMRC and whether this is justified, as well as looking at whether the company has “dealt fairly with payments to creditors during the period” and if part of a group, has “reasonably apportioned debt or risk within the group”.

Ultimately, the key point to take from this guidance, as indeed from the case law it reflects, is that HMRC support for restructuring is possible, but early and open engagement with HMRC is essential.

What does the Autumn Statement offer struggling businesses?

What does the Autumn Statement offer struggling businesses?

As a major policy moment before the next UK general election, this Autumn Statement has been hotly anticipated. There was much speculation about possible tax cuts to provide relief to businesses who have been struggling with the impacts of inflation, supply chain and labour issues.

Hunt predicted that the 110 growth measures he included in the statement would increase business investment by £20 billion per year in a decade and he emphasised that the statement was an “Autumn Statement for Growth”. This was against  figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility where projected growth is now expected to be slower than expected, and inflation is estimated not to fall to its 2% target level until the first half of 2025. Whilst the economy defied predictions with an estimated growth of 0.6% in 2023, the OBR’s estimate of the medium-term potential growth rate of the economy has been revised down to 1.6% from their previous estimate of 1.8%.

The Chancellor’s measures for businesses included the following:

Business Tax Measures 

  • “Full expensing” for businesses to be made permanent.
  • 75% business rates discount for hospitality, retail and leisure extended for another year to 2024/2025.
  • A freeze on all alcohol duty until 1 August 2024.
  • Creating a new simplified Research & Development (R&D) tax relief combining the existing R&D expenditure credit and SME schemes; reducing the rate that loss-making companies are taxed within the merge scheme from 25% to 19% and lowering the threshold for additional support for R&D-intensive lossmaking SMEs to 30%.
  • The small business rates multiplier will be frozen for a further year, though the standard business rates multiplier will rise by inflation.
  • Abolition of Class 2 National Insurance contributions for the self-employed altogether, and Class 4 National Insurance contributions reduced by 1% from 9% from April 2024.

 

Apprenticeships and Skills

  • An additional £50 million to boost numbers of apprenticeships in key growth sectors.

 

Business investment and other measures

  • Reforms to business planning applications for faster processing.
  • Foreign Direct Investment reforms, including a concierge service for the largest investors.
  • Mansion House pension reforms to unlock an extra £75 billion of investment for high growth forms by 2030.
  • Extension of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Venture Capital Trusts (VCT) schemes until 2035 to support start-up companies.
  • A new Growth Fund within the British Business Bank for investing in high growth companies.
  • An upcoming review of the Value for Money Framework by the Financial Conduct Authority
  • A consultation on the Pension Protection Fund acting as a consolidator for smaller private defined benefit pensions schemes.
  • Further capital market reforms to attract investment.

 

Sector specific measures

  • Improving electricity grid access for clean energy companies.
  • £500 million over the next two years to help develop Artificial Intelligence industries.
  • For the advanced manufacturing and green energy sectors he announced that the government will be publishing long-term plans and £4.5 billion of support over the five years to 2030 to attract investment into strategic manufacturing centres.

 

Late payments  

  • In terms of payments dates, the Procurement Act has 30-day payment terms throughout the subcontract supply chain for public sector contracts. From April 2024, any company bidding for large government contracts should demonstrate they pay their own invoices within an average of 55 days which will reduce progressively to 30 days.

 

Levelling up

  • Investment zones and freeports – extending financial incentives for investment zones, and tax reliefs for Freeports from 5 years to 10 years.
  • A £150 million investment opportunity fund, new investment zone in West Yorkshire, 3 further investment zones in the West Midlands, East Midlands and Greater Manchester, and a second investment zone in Wales.

 

Impact

The Chancellor stated that the 110 growth measures he included in the statement would increase business investment by up to £20 billion per year and described the extension to full expensing as “the largest business tax cut in modern British history” and the “biggest ever boost for business investment in modern times”.

A number of the measures will be welcome for struggling businesses, especially smaller businesses, such as the plans for tackling late payments where businesses are struggling with cashflow issues, as well as the freezing of the small business multiplier for an additional year. There were also sector specific measures such as the extension of the 75% business rates discount for hospitality, retail and leisure for another year, and the freezing of all alcohol duty until 1 August 2024. This will be good news for these sectors, where businesses are particularly struggling with increasing costs and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on demand.

The full expensing change was broadly welcomed by businesses – though it will benefit more research-intensive industries rather than service sectors – and it was also noted that by the Federation of Small Businesses that some of the major concerns of SME businesses were addressed, such as late payments and small business rates. Other measures supporting investment have been welcomed by organisations such as the British Venture Capital Association.

However, larger retailers and other hospitality businesses will still have to face an increase in the standard business rates multiplier by the September 2023 CPI rate of 6.7%. The OBR analysis confirmed that though the tax cuts in the Autumn Statement reduce the UK tax burden by 0.7% of GDP, the tax burden continues to rise and will reach a post-war high of nearly 38% of GDP by 2028/29. Increases to the National Living Wage also represent additional costs for businesses. In addition, organisations like the Institute of Directors noted that there was a lack of comprehensive measures for tackling skills shortages that also impact business prospects.

Ultimately, whilst welcoming some of the measures, businesses will be looking at the reduced growth figures – with a rate of 0.7% now predicted for 2024 – as well as the lagging inflation and interest rates with trepidation and steeling themselves for continued challenging times.

Adapt Transform Succeed: The IFT announces 2023 Award Winners

The IFT Annual Awards, the most prestigious awards to celebrate business turnaround and the UK’s world class turnaround experts, recognises individuals and companies.

The winners are as follows:

Large Company Turnaround of the Year PwC for Travelex. This was a multi-year turnaround, with an emphasis on leadership. The team were persistent, adapted when required and shared their energy and motivation across the company. The case showed determination, resilience and commitment to deliver the turnaround plan, which was shared by employees, shareholders, the Barclays led lender group and PwC, leading the business back to profitability.

Mid-market Turnaround of the YearRcapital for Cluttons. he judges stated that this was a truly remarkable turnaround, transformation, and exit. Facing challenging trading conditions, Cluttons embarked on a journey to return to growth through successful financial restructuring, strategic repositioning, and technological innovation alongside a commitment to ESG principles. Cluttons is a heritage brand, and the turnaround enabled it to respond to the contemporary environment, echoing the IFT’s message: Adapt, Transform, Succeed.

SME Turnaround of the YearBarclays for Salvatori Group of Companies. The judges remarked upon the resilience showed by this historically successful business in overcoming the challenges associated with a premises move, overrunning costs and profitability issues. The submission showcased the rock-solid dependability of the business support team, which enabled the management team to guide their own return to profitability

Community Impact Turnaround of the YearBDO for HCT Group, a social enterprise and registered charity providing a range of vital community transport services. This turnaround presented a challenging case, with a lot at stake for the communities served. The judges remarked on the commitment of the leadership team, and differing skills displayed by those members of our turnaround community who were involved. The turnaround enabled the continued provision of essential services to vulnerable groups, and saved over 1,000 jobs.

DLA Piper picked up Legal Adviser of the Year. This firm has long been known for its breadth of expertise across sectors. The cases and programmes cited in their submission indicated a commitment to turnaround outcomes, and engagement across stakeholder groups. DLA Piper demonstrated that they are working at the leading edge of turnaround practice by championing Part 26a Restructuring Plans and securing notable sanctions.

Alvarez and Marsal has achieved remarkable growth and delivered exceptional solutions for clients, including as an early pioneer of Part 26a Restructuring Plans, to win in the category of Turnaround Adviser of the Year. Their submission demonstrated a spread of sector activity and great engagement with stakeholders.

Enact Fund has continued to cement its position as a leading transformational investor in the UK lower mid-market and wins Special Situations Private Equity Provider of the Year. Enact have established a strong operating model, enabling portfolio companies to drive success, with a clear commitment to sustainability and ESG practice. The team evidenced strong outcomes across portfolio companies, predicated on turnaround excellence – demonstrating the IFT brand: adapt, transform, succeed.

Blazehill Capital picked up the award for Special Situations Debt Provider of the Year. As a relatively new entrant, the marketplace has taken note and Blazehill are already recognised for their skill in both origination and managing problems. Their profile as a flexible lender, providing more choice for UK mid-market companies, is combined with a commitment to social causes.

Bringing together leading independent turnaround directors and the best lenders, investors, advisory and legal firms in turnaround, we are also delighted to celebrate individual successes.

The winner of Independent Turnaround Adviser of the Year for this year was Donald Muir. Donald is well known as a turnaround leader and his most recent large turnaround showcased his outstanding leadership skills, his ability to inspire others to excellent results and the trust he builds with stakeholders.

This is the first year The IFT had independent advisers and a boutique apply to win the independent adviser award, which prompted the judges’ decision to make two awards, with Taiga Associates taking home Independent Boutique Adviser of the Year. The judges recognised the technical excellence and EQ of all team members and their commitment to the turnaround cases they approach, no matter how big, small or challenging. Taiga support a range of companies across different sectors, and are able to provide a blend of skills to support privately owned smaller businesses, PE backed mid markets and Plcs.

Finally, our Rising Star Award went to Nashiba Shafiq of PwC, who has worked across a range of projects with a variety of stakeholders – and her personal impact came across very compellingly in her citations. Starting as a school leaver, she shows maturity beyond her years in her ability to lead, to influence change and to make a difference for future generations.

Andy Leeser, Chairman of The IFT said: “I am delighted to congratulate all our winners and showcase some of the projects our members and partners are involved in.

They work hard at restoring value to organisations in very difficult situations. Since 2020 businesses have faced a rollercoaster of disruption and the pressure is showing in the insolvency rate, which rose 27% in June 2023 compared with a year earlier, taking it to the highest level since the 2008-9 financial crisis.

The work of our members and corporate partners will remain pivotal.”

Milly Camley, CEO of The IFT said:

“I would like to congratulate all the winners in a year of highly competitive submissions demonstrating what an incredible job all our members have been doing over the last year.  The quality and impact of that work was reflected in the number of quality of submissions we received for the awards this year.

Those contributions are also reflected in the findings of our recent societal impact survey, which estimated that IFT accredited members saved in excess of 55,000 jobs and £2.6bn in shareholder value in the year 2022-23. When we factor in the work of our partners the number of jobs saved rises to just shy of 150,000.”

Delivering at Pace: A Benchmarked Analysis of the Traits, Skills and Drivers of Turnaround Leaders

We are pleased to publish our report with Korn Ferry, Delivering at Pace: A Benchmarked Analysis of the Traits, Skills and Drivers of Turnaround Leaders. Korn Ferry are global leaders in executive search and using their psychometric profiling toolkit we outlined the key dimensions of turnaround leadership skills and talent.

We believe this study represents the first close analysis of the competencies, traits and drivers associated with turnaround leaders – the Chief Restructuring Officers, Chairs, Chief Executives and Turnaround Directors who have developed a specialism working at the most challenging edge of leadership for distressed or underperforming businesses.

To view and download the report please CLICK HERE

For press information and media enquiries please contact:

Riyah Davies, Communications & Public Affairs Executive: rdavies@the-ift.com