Business rescue applications kick in

Business Rescue saves companies from the chop

The pace at which company liquidations are decreasing picked up again in October when liquidations dropped by 35.3% year-on-year, after a 28.5% decline in September and a fall of 20.2% in August, according to figures released by Statistics SA this week.

Adam Harris, director of the litigation department at corporate law firm Bowman Gilfillan, said this indicated that more companies are benefiting from business rescue laws that came into effect in May last year under the Companies Act of 2008.

“The fact that the decrease in the number of liquidations has been driven mainly by voluntary liquidations is indicative that the business rescue procedure is taking hold and that there has been an increase in the number of companies seeking assistance.” 

Adv. Rory Voller, deputy commissioner at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), recently advised that to date there have been more than 740 entities, including close corporations, private and public companies, that have either filed a notice to begin business rescue proceedings after passing a resolution, or that have approached a court to request to be placed in business rescue.  

Harris commented: “It is significant that according to CIPC figures, in the majority of cases – some 82% – it was a voluntary decision by the officers of the entity concerned. In other instances, the affected parties (the bank, employees, shareholders or a creditor) approached the court. 

“It appears that there is still a high degree of skepticism in the lender community. This is not assisted by the fact that of the 25 or so cases which have been before the courts, in the overwhelming majority there have been irregularities which have been highlighted to show that the courts should rather stay away from granting business rescue orders”.

1time Holdings subsidiary, 1time Airline, applied for business rescue, which was short-lived, while one of the first companies to undergo business rescue was Pinnacle Point Group. The latter failed after Pinnacle Point’s bankers declined to provide the necessary financial support.

Another high-profile business rescue case that failed was construction company Sanyati Holdings.

There have, however, also been some significant successes, including Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mining.

The CIPC reported a success rate of approximately 55% of all businesses that have concluded their rescue operations. The Act prescribes a three-month turnaround, but it does leave room for extension. Many of the rescues reported to CIPC have not yet been concluded. The average time period reported is five months.

The Companies Act envisages that the entire business rescue process should be completed within a matter of months. Once a notice of business rescue has been filed with the commission, it appoints a business rescue practitioner who has to produce a rescue plan.

“Business rescue aims at avoiding liquidations and job losses by providing businesses with protection against creditors who may want to apply for liquidation. It is an opportunity to reorganise and restructure distressed but viable companies in order to avoid liquidation,” explained Harris.

Applying for business rescue can provide companies with the opportunity to access interim liquidity to fund their operations while a rescue package is being formulated. It is important for a rescue package to be implemented as soon as possible.

Harris commented that, "Business rescue offers an alternative to liquidation for financially distressed companies, allowing them to be stabilised and restructured. However, business rescue always depends on there being a source of funding, which means companies will also need buy-in from their banks and creditors for an application to be successful."

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