Happy Sunday: 25 April

Posted on Apr 25, 2021. by NTI

Every time Dominic Cummings’ name crests the headlines the nation grows to loathe him a little more. Apparently, the man has a cricket score of an IQ, but none of it has the capacity for self-reflection and he appears incapable of realising how little we all like and trust him. Thank heavens he has his good looks and 20:20 vision to sustain him.

An independent enquiry has been launched into whether the little bald weasel is a landlord of Clarks footwear emporium, as his ire, having been scorned by Boris and his new henchmen, is equal only to that of the landlords of the antediluvian shoe shops following their CVA back at the end of 2020.

Property owners including British Land and M&G are challenging the CVA approved by more than 90 per cent of creditors last November, which is as much of a waste of time as forming a new Superleague of European football clubs having hastily re-named it ‘The Fans Special League’. JP Morgan have apologised for the part they played in the League’s first iteration (so, that’s all right, then) but someone should explain to them that doesn’t make it all right.

Back to the CVA at Clarks, who are bringing back their range of winkle pickers and strappy toeless sandals for staycations all over our sun-soaked country, you may recall that the NTI newsroom ran a number of articles during the process, reporting the use of the insolvency intervention to move most of its 320 UK stores onto rents linked to sales, pay zero rent on 60 more and erase arrears accrued in the pan blah ... blah ... blah.

Despite being the only group of creditors to be impacted, landlords accounted for less than a quarter of the votes and, as any decent CPI or JIEB student knows, the process requires 75 per cent (or greater) approval from creditors. If this situation was raised in an exam question any candidate worth their salt would regard it as a ‘gimme’, so rock solid is the law in this area. However, landlords from Clarks have joined similar actions by those in New Look and Regis UK (in fairness some of them are probably the same people) so it will an interesting summer of law in that area. To reassure you, the NTI newsroom have allocated six full-time newshounds to watch this story, so we will be first with any breaking news on this front.

If you are sitting the Joint Board’s exams this year you may think that all this will come too late to be included in your answer to a CVA question (any court decision or change of statute coming after the 1 April cut-off being beyond the scope of the exam), but we at NTI have been pressing ‘holistic marks’ on you in all lecture room courses and this would appear at the centre of the target range for such additional points.

An interesting summer, too, for small businesses, especially those operating in the retail, leisure and casual dining sectors. Many of them have been pondering the first payments on their (up to) £50,000 Government bounceback loans, whilst navigating around the chicanery of 00 Sunak’s ‘restart grants’, which are tougher to get than Covid in a care home these days.

Those pushing open the front doors to their shops and restaurants for the first time since forever find themselves meeting resistance from a doorstop of unpaid bills laying on the front door mat. They need to sharpen their pencils to work out payments on deferred VAT that were due to start from the beginning of the month before getting to grips with the tapering furlough scheme from 1 July and consequent ignominy of having to pay their own staff's wages. The cheek!

On top of all this angst tenants will be steeling themselves for landlords being able to start evicting for unpaid rent from 1 July, with Begbies Traynor’s closely watched reg flag alert hauntingly crowing in the background that there was a record increase in the number of significantly financially distressed businesses in the first three months of the year. Like that doesn’t make it worse, Begbies.

It is bad enough trying to kickstart again your bespoke painted thimble and raspberry jam business in the Cotswolds without having to face reality at the same time (our profession can be so insensitive at times.) Cashflow is king for these businesses and, if they had any they would certainly be placing it at the top of their list of ‘must haves’. But this is the main issue: it has been almost 14 months of deafening silence from cash registers and the Government is seen by some to be tactlessly hasty in demanding back loans and deferrals of taxes. Rude, even.

SMEs, particularly those in the sectors where it is most needed, are finding it very hard to get lifeblood loans and it will push many to them to the wall as spring turns to summer. They don’t seem to notice the glorious spring weather and for loads of them it simply isn’t a ...

... Happy Sunday.


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