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Financial Services Firms: Just How Snug Does That Shoe On The Other Foot Feel?

Posted on Jan 07, 2021. by NTI

Do you work on insolvencies in the financial services sector? You do? Okay, you're going need more staff. The Financial Conduct Authority, who are not known to play with polemics, said today (Thursday 7 January) that as many as 4,000 financial services firms face a risk of collapse because of, guess what?

The FCA surveyed 23,000 of the businesses it supervises, received 19,000 responses and heard the desperate screams of 30 per cent of them. The issue is that if these businesses implode they are going to suck in a huge number of consumers who are clinging to the side of them, asking for their Mums. The Bank of England are responsible for overseeing the financial stability of the 1,500 biggest firms operating in this sector in the UK and they are a bit busy printing money at the moment, as well as standing on the sidelines every time Rishi Sunak makes a speech, dragging silent fingers across their throats.

In case you are currently budgeting for where vast amounts of your income is coming from this calendar year, aim your sights at small to medium-sized businesses in the financial sector, because these have the 'least financial resistance' (no-one is paying back their loans at the moment) and at 'heightened risk of failure' (call the undertaker). About 2,200 of these companies have negotiated extensions with creditors (ironic that, isn't it?) or delayed payments. All are bracing themselves for a decline. 1,890 companies are expecting a drop in income of between 26 to 50 per cent this year. 550 firms are anticipating a decline of between 51 per cent and 75 per cent, and a further 337 were looking starkly into the jaws of a drop of more than 76 per cent. 17 businesses were rocking on their heels in the corner, begging for drugs.

Meanwhile, the company behind All Bar One and Harvester pubs is exploring how it can raise further cash as the Coro ... blah, blah, blah continues to run its infectious tongue along the foreheads of those in hospitality businesses. Mitchells & Butlers is looking at the possibility of a rise in equity capital (selling its shares for cash - although, who is going to want those? The bigger investors, such as Intermediate Capital Group (ICG) and Towerbrook Capital Partners have allegedly already earmarked £400 million to buy KPMG's restructuring division, which barely pays Will Wright's annual dry-cleaning bill, as far as we see it).

Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers had prepared a speech to talk about this share sale, but instead just looked at the camera and cried for ten minutes, not least because D:REAM were wrong; things getting better is only one option. Things getting decidedly worse just doesn't scan as well in pop music.

Things are definitely getting worse for Ryanair, which today said it was to "significantly cut" services from Thursday 21 January, resulting in "few, if any, flights being operated to/from Ireland or the UK from the end of this month". An airline that doesn't fly. Not a long-term business strategy.

But the hungrier looks at Greggs, for a change, are not those looking in but some peeking out. The sausage roll king has said that it still believes that "normal patterns of behaviour will return" this year and they are as bullish about it as one of their vegan salads. Somehow, in the fourth quarter of last year, total sales at Greggs were £293 million, comparing in like-for-like terms as 81.9 per cent of where they were in the same quarter in 2019. Shares in Greggs rose 194p today (a huge 10.9 per cent) as trading is said to be "considerably better than expected". Mind you, they did just expect to sell one steak sandwich and one piece of carrot cake at their store in Coventry.

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