United Kingdom

A dramatic increase in defaults during the next year due to the coronavirus will create a big opportunity for distressed debt investors, according to the world’s biggest publicly listed hedge fund firm, Bloomberg News reported. Money managers at Man Group Plc are intrigued by what they say could be the largest global distressed credit cycle in a generation. It all happened in just a month as the public health crisis rippled through economies all over the world, prompting a sell-off in sovereign and corporate bonds.

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British pub chain JD Wetherspoon has suspended payments to its suppliers in the Republic until its pubs reopen after the coronavirus crisis, The Irish Times reported. The company confirmed to The Irish Times that, in line with its UK policy, it has sought a moratorium on payments until its outlets reopen. In an e-mail first reported by UK sustainability website Footprint, the company wrote: “We are asking for a moratorium on payments until the pubs reopen, at which point we intend to clear outstanding payments within a short timeframe.

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The U.K. government’s rescue plan for small and medium sized companies may be only three days old, but there’s growing concern it won’t be able to stave off a wave of bankruptcies in the world’s fifth-largest economy, Bloomberg News reported. On Wednesday, a chorus of voices ranging from lawmakers to small business trade groups said the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, or CBILS, is too reliant on commercial banks and their traditional underwriting methods to rapidly deliver cash to desperate companies.

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The administrators of a shipbuilding company bought by the Scottish government are owed £1.2 million, The Times reported. A report by Deloitte shows the costs charged for its staff working on the insolvency of Ferguson Marine Engineering between August and February. Ferguson went into administration in the summer after a long dispute between it and Caledonian Maritime Assets over a £97 million contract to build two new ferries for the islands.

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The IoD is calling for emergency insolvency measures to prevent widespread company collapses, Business News Wales reported. Under current laws, the board of directors has a strict duty to cease trading if the company is facing insolvency, and may face personal financial or legal liabilities at a later date if they seek finance instead of doing so. The IoD therefore calls on the Government to relax existing insolvency obligations – including a moratorium on the current offence of wrongful trading.

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UK Eyes Insolvency Law Reforms

The UK government is eyeing urgent changes to insolvency laws to prevent companies unable to meet debts due to the impact of coronavirus from being forced to file for bankruptcy, the Financial Times reported. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy canvassed insolvency and restructuring experts this week on a possible suspension of wrongful trading laws and new measures to protect retail and hospitality groups forced to stop trading because of the government’s nationwide lockdown, according to two people familiar with the matter.

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UK small lenders are warning that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable customers could become “mortgage prisoners” if the government does not grant wider access to emergency funding schemes to support credit during the coronavirus pandemic, the Financial Times reported. Non-bank, specialist lenders play a key role in providing home loans to three quarters of a million people who cannot borrow from mainstream banks, as well as financing small businesses and providing consumer finance such as point-of-sale credit.

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Two of the UK’s largest peer-to-peer platforms are “urgently” seeking access to government schemes and financing to help them keep lending, as the coronavirus pandemic increases the risk of loan defaults by individuals and small businesses, the Financial Times reported. RateSetter, one of the UK’s biggest P2P lenders with more than £800m on its loan book, has called on the Bank of England and the Treasury to allow it access to stimulus schemes that provide liquidity to banks.

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Burger King, Carluccio’s and Yo! Sushi are among hundreds of businesses in the UK planning to withhold rents this week as they battle to conserve cash to survive the coronavirus outbreak, the Financial Times reported. Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, said he would skip rent payments due on the chain’s more than 500 British restaurants to free up funds to pay staff, after the government announced that those who did not pay would not forfeit their lease.

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Laura Ashley Holdings said on Monday it will permanently shut 70 stores and cut hundreds of jobs as the struggling fashion retailer appointed administrators following a damaging blow to its business from the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported. The pandemic has compounded challenges faced by British retailers. Laura Ashley, a favourite of late Princess Diana in its 1980s heyday, has seen sales fall, store closures and weakness at its home furnishings business.

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