The statistics make for grim reading. The number of UK companies collapsing into insolvency jumped almost 60 per cent during the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago, with few signs of the rise in corporate failures abating.
Government action is expected following the consultation on potential insolvency laws which closes at the beginning of September. The proposals, which aim to give absolute priority to new money lent to companies in difficulty and to give large and medium sized companies a breathing space while they seek agreement with creditors, have already sparked furious debate among insolvency specialists about whether they go too far or not far enough.
Yet crossing over the insolvency line is by no means the only remedy for most companies. Balance sheets can be re-geared; debt restructured and even converted to equity; and special instruments created as incentives to lenders. Continuing to trade can often be achieved via expert management of the cash flow. For those who wish to invest in the debt of troubled companies, there are opportunities to acquire debt portfolios and companies themselves may, under certain circumstances, buy back their own debt at discounted rates.
If the decision to cease trading must be made, then it must be done coolly and professionally and not in an atmosphere of panic.
Understanding the various levels of creditor and what arrangements are to be made needs to be carefully handled. Where both senior and junior creditors have to absorb big losses, infighting may intensify and there is often a variation in mindset even between creditors of the same class. Merger or acquisition may still be a solution at this stage but the legal issues are complex. This is particularly so in regard to pre-packs, the process whereby a buyer is lined up for a struggling business before it actually goes into administration. Creditors may lose out if administrators do not 'test the market' for a buyer thoroughly enough.
Finally, the operation of insolvency itself presents major challenges. As well as clarity over the UK rules on administration, a company with overseas subsidiaries will have issues to be decided under the Chapter 11 process in the US and under what is now referred to as 'COMI' (the Centre of Main Interest) within the EU.
From the initial restructuring to final insolvency, this conference will give delegates along the path of understanding with a panel of experts examining in detail all the stages outlined above. The audience will hear presentations on the following topics:
Avoiding insolvency: the options
Trading debt positions
The decision to cease trading
Arrangements with creditors
M&A as a solution
Case study - Nortel
The insolvency process
Case study – Sanitec
Attendance at this conference will be invaluable for all those involved in restructurings including financial institutions, lawyers, accountants and turnaround specialists.
Gareth Roberts Partner, Herbert Smith LLP
Stephen Aulsebrook Chief Executive, Close Brothers
Alan Bloom Head of Restructuring, Ernst & Young
Glen Cronin Director, Rothschild
Simon Davies Managing Director, Corporate Advisory Group, The Blackstone Group
Steve Gale Partner, Herbert Smith LLP
David Hewish Director, AlixPartners
Andrew Hosking Partner, Recovery and Re-Organisation, Grant Thornton
Martin Saywell Partner, Latham & Watkins LLP
Peter Stevens Managing Director, Credit Suisse First Boston
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