FAQ: What Is a Company Administration?

Mark Halstead Risk

It’s never good news when companies enter administration. 

For the business’s directors, it’s often the end of a long and stressful period of decline. 

For unsecured creditors, the process can lead to them losing vast sums of money and can put their own business in jeopardy.

This article explains what a company administration is, how it works, and how you can avoid falling victim to one yourself.

What Is a Company Administration?

Company administration is when an insolvency practitioner is appointed to manage an insolvent business.

This procedure gives the business time to do one of three things:

  • Restructure and become profitable.
  • Be sold and revived.
  • Be wound up and liquidated.

In all cases, the administrator will be working with the company and the creditors’ interests in mind. They will attempt to recover as much money as possible for creditors.

Both a limited company and a limited liability partnership can go into administration.

Creditors cannot take legal action against a business once the company goes into administration. This means that no one can wind up your company during the process.

Why Should a Company Enter Administration?

Company directors may wish to enter administration if they experience the following:

The Business Is Insolvent

The business should be unable to pay its debts. Or it could be contingently insolvent—this is where the company's assets are exceeded by its debts and insolvency is inevitable. The company should have significant value or assets to make the process worthwhile. It should also have predictable cash flow and profitability.

Creditors Are Demanding Payment

The company should be experiencing creditor pressure to repay its debts. It should be at risk of court action because of this. Creditors may have already tried to force the business into liquidation to recover these debts.

What Other Options Are There?

Some businesses may not fit the criteria above but might still want to recover funds from their business. Here are some of the options available to these company directors:

Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation

Suppose the company does not have significant assets or cash flow. In that case, a better option may be to enter a creditors’ voluntary liquidation (CVL). This immediately winds up the company. As much money as possible is made from company assets to pay back creditors.

Company Voluntary Arrangement

Insolvent companies that are yet to be pursued by creditors may attempt a company voluntary arrangement (CVA). This is when the company agrees to a plan to repay creditors over a period of years. This helps the company to become profitable again. However, creditors representing 75% of the company’s debt need to agree to the CVA for it to be legal.

Pre-Pack Administration

This is when a sale of the business is agreed upon before the administrator is appointed. The administrator simply manages the transaction. This is different to a standard insolvency procedure, where the administrator will market and sell the business. 

Pre-packs have many advantages, including:

The business can continue operating as usual due to the short company administration period.

It avoids negative publicity. This reduces the chance that staff will leave the business or that its share price will be affected.

It also reduces costs incurred during normal company administration periods.

What Happens When a Company Enters Administration? 

The administrator usually begins by seeking a buyer for the business. At the same time, the administrator will inform creditors, employees and shareholders of the company administration and how long it will last. 

If the administrator cannot find a buyer, they will choose the best route to make the company profitable. This could be a restructure followed by a CVA. 

If the administrator needs to liquidate the business, they may sell its assets and make its employees redundant. The company is then wound up and removed from the Companies House register. 

The company administration process usually runs as follows:

  1. The directors appoint an administrator.
  2. The administrator sends the proposals to creditors within eight weeks.
  3. All creditors must approve the proposals.
  4. The company creditors hold a meeting. 
  5. The administrator sends a statement of affairs to creditors every six months.
  6. The administration is completed either because the company:
    1. Returns to profitability
    2. Enters a CVA or pre-pack
    3. Is liquidated
  7. The administration ends automatically after 12 months unless extended.  

Do I Need to Tell Companies House?

No. The administrator will advertise the administration process with Companies House and in the Gazette. If the business is liquidated or dissolved, Companies House will automatically remove the company from its register.

Pros and Cons of Administration

Directors facing the insolvency process will need to weigh up whether administration is the best solution for their business.

Here are the pros and cons:

The Pros:

Creditors can’t take action

Administration protects companies from creditors taking legal action to wind up the company. Any existing legal action is also stayed. 

Licensed Insolvency Practitioner Support

An administrator is a licensed insolvency practitioner acting for the company and its creditors. They are highly trained, independent professionals. This means they can choose the best course of action without pre-existing connections to the company clouding their judgement.

Time to Plan

When a company becomes insolvent, people start to panic and can make rash decisions. Administration allows time for the company’s finances to be appropriately assessed and a plan made.

The Business Could Be Saved Quickly

Pre-pack administrations allow the business to continue trading seamlessly. CVAs allow insolvent firms to return to profit over a longer period.

The Cons:

Directors Lose Control

During an administration, directors cannot control company affairs. This is usually a good thing for the company and its creditors. However, directors may find it hard to stomach.

Everyone Knows 

A standard administration will be made public. This can have a significant impact on the company’s reputation, as well as the directors’. Administrators have to notify the company's creditors and customers of the administration and include a note of it in all correspondence with them. This could cause concern amongst these stakeholders.

It’s Expensive

The administration process can be expensive. It’s therefore only suitable for businesses that have good cash flow. Usually companies that choose administration experience, or expect to experience, aggressive creditor action.

Who Can Appoint an Administrator?

Directors and secured creditors with a floating charge on the business can put a company into administration. Directors do this voluntarily. 

It’s possible for floating charge holders to appoint a licensed insolvency practitioner even if the directors have already done so. 

How Long Does the Administration Process Take?

An insolvency practitioner has eight weeks from their appointment to submit proposals to make the company profitable again. 

Once creditors have approved the proposals, the administrator manages the process and ensures the company follows the proposed plan. This can take several months, or up to a year. If the administrator requires more time, they need to apply to the court or company creditors for an extension.  

A pre-pack administration takes up to two weeks to organise.

Why Clients in Administration Threaten Your Business

When a company goes into administration, it can be devastating for directors. It usually marks the end of a stressful period for their business. They lose control of the company and it could even be liquidated.

It’s also a hard time for creditors. Unsecured creditors like suppliers could lose thousands of pounds if the company going into administration defaults on unpaid invoices. 

This financial black hole puts strain on their business. If the amount of money a creditor loses is too high it can ruin their finances. As a result, they might also enter administration or liquidate their company.

The best thing business owners can do to avoid being in either situation is to monitor the financial health of companies they work with.

Protect Your Business 

So how can you monitor your clients?

Red Flag Alert gives a financial health rating to every UK company. These health ratings predict insolvency.

Users can set up alerts that warn them when the financial position of one of their clients worsens. 

Doing this allows you to spot customers that could go insolvent and take proactive action to protect your business from them. 

Here are some of the steps you could take:

  • Monitor the client more often
  • Find out why they are struggling 
  • Offer help
  • Find other clients
  • Maximise profit margins on the account
  • Tighten the client’s credit terms
  • Call in unpaid invoices
  • Stop working with the client

Directors can also use Red Flag Alert to monitor the health of their own business. This helps them avoid sliding towards insolvency without realising it. 

The Power of Data

Our financial health predictions are accurate and reliable. 

Our database includes hundreds of data points on more than 6.5 million UK companies. These are updated in real-time, meaning you get the most up-to-date information available. 

A machine learning algorithm makes our predictions. It uses fifteen years of company data to determine how changes in a business's situation will impact its financial health in the future.

The algorithm uses this information to assign a health rating. Healthy businesses are rated gold, silver and bronze. Companies at risk of insolvency are rated one, two and three red flags. 

Learn How Data Can Help You

Red Flag Alert can help you protect your business from going into administration by monitoring your company's financial health and its customers.

For a free consultation on how Red Flag Alert can help you protect your business, please contact Richard West on richard.west@redflagalert.com or 0344 412 6699.

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Mark Halstead Partner

Mark's experience is big data analytics, financial services and building businesses provides Red Flag Alert with strategic direction.