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Monday, July 26, 2010

More help for troubled companies?

Government consults over 'restructuring moratorium'

The Government has announced proposals for a restructuring moratorium to protect companies whilst a rescue plan is put in place to help save businesses and preserve jobs.  A moratorium is basically a protected ‘breathing space’ during which no action can be taken against the company by its creditors. The moratorium is aimed at companies where the underlying business is fundamentally viable but because of the prospect of future insolvency or financial distress there is a need to protect the business from creditors whilst some restructuring is carried out. The moratorium is proposed for use alongside the existing Company Voluntary Arrangement or Scheme of Arrangement procedures.

The proposals provide for a moratorium which would last for three months, which would commence following a court hearing at which creditors could be represented. The company would continue to operate under the existing management and directors however they would be bound by a set of obligations and potential sanctions for misuse of the procedure. A licensed insolvency practitioner would be involved at key stages to help safeguard the interests of creditors and other stakeholders.

I welcome this consultation as I have been an advocate of this type of moratorium for many years. The CVA procedure is often frustrated by the lack of any effective moratorium – although a moratorium is technically available to qualifying companies that are proposing a CVA, the requirements are widely considered to be so onerous that they are seldom used by IPs. This is in stark contrast to the Interim Order that is available for debtors who are proposing Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) where rapid and straightforward protection is available to allow a breathing space whilst an IVA isformulated and put forward to creditors.

The consultation ends in the middle of October so I eagerly await the Government’s response. This could be a timely measure which could have a real impact in terms of saving businesses and jobs.

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