Between January and December 2023, 55,492 companies entered into insolvency proceedings in France, whether for safeguarding, recovery or judicial liquidation. After two years of decline linked to aid granted by the State, this level returned to that of 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic. That “ reflects a catching-up movement », underlines the Banque de France, which published this figure on Friday January 5. The financial institution puts it into perspective, however, because it remains lower than the annual average of defaults over the period 2010-2019, which amounts to 59,342 procedures per year.
The fact remains that the catch-up recorded in 2023 is significant: the number of companies entering into the procedure has accumulated by 34.4% compared to 2022. It is particularly significant in the real estate sectors ( + 40.4%) and construction (+ 38.7%), two sectors hit hard by the consequences of rising interest rates. Accommodation and catering, largely supported during the health crisis, is experiencing a sort of backlash, with 44.6% additional failures.
“What weakens businesses today is the accumulation of debt”, testifies Denis Le Bossé, president of the ARC firm, specializing in recovery. After three years of exceptional measures, “some have debts to Urssaf and the tax services which are added to bank debts, especially since, in certain sectors, they have been able to achieve quite significant salary increases”. In commercial businesses, such as restaurants or clothing stores, “ commercial leases are very heavy »while moratoriums had been granted during the pandemic.
The weakening of cash flow, which results in an extension of payment terms, also plays a role. According to the report established by the Altares firm in September 2023, on average, the delay is twelve days and only one company in two pays its invoices on time. However, rising interest rates can also have an impact on this, with financial managers preferring to keep cash in their company’s account for as long as possible.
Large or medium-sized companies increasingly affected
On the front line, the commercial courts confirm the trend. “We are increasingly called upon for collective procedures”, notes Sophie Heurley, clerk at the Narbonne commercial court (Aude) and member of the office of the National Council of commercial court clerks. In general, this request comes too late to put in place a safeguard or recovery procedure. “Business leaders come to see us at the last moment, once they have knocked on all the doors and their banker has given them a final refusal”deplores MMe Heureley. “ Often, they are already in suspension of payments; sometimes, they even stopped their activity. There is then nothing more to do. All that remains is to liquidate the company. »
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