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Plimsoll tips on avoiding closure in UK security sector

Plimsoll Publishing : 25 February, 2009  (Technical Article)
With the financial crisis continuing, Plimsoll is offering the UK security market advice on how to avoid becoming a casualty of the recession
Restructuring specialists believe the number of UK insolvencies will soar by 55% towards the end of 2009, more than double the number before the credit crunch. However, a new analysis by business intelligence analysts Plimsoll Publishing, suggests that it's not too late to save many of the 163 UK Security companies rated as being at high risk of failure. However the new report comes with a warning: if these 163 companies rated as danger are to survive, they must start to fix their problems now.

David Pattison, senior business analyst at Plimsoll, gives his views on what these 'Danger' companies should be doing to ensure their survival.

The first issue is to understand the extent of the problems the company is facing. In our 22 years of analysing the security market, the symptoms of a failing business are sadly, all too familiar:

* Phase 1. The company comes under pressure to increase sales, so uses all their resources, often resorting to selling at a loss, or adding extra costs to service their clients' demands.

* Phase 2. As a result, the company is encouraged to take on extra short term debts to finance the sales drive, putting extra pressure on their profit margins through extra interest payments- therefore failing to cut costs which is what is actually needed.

* Phase 3. After a while, the banks grow nervous and ask that this unsecured finance be swapped to long term finance.

* Phase 4. Armed with the extra financed capital, the company continues with the failing strategy and allows the overdraft to start to build up again and thus eroding the profits more. Despite the increased financial pressure the company is now under, profits are eaten up in interest payments whilst the company tries to maintain sales.

* Phase 5. The company debt grows to an uncontrolled level and the banks once again grow nervous on the company's ability to pay it back. It is often now that the banks will demand immediate repayment of the debt, and when the company is unable to do this, administrators are called in.

A critical factor in this cycle is to understand the key measures to monitor in your business in order to pinpoint any decline. Our analysis will tell you instantly, where the company is strong and what it weaknesses are, so that a clear set of turnaround targets can be put in place. Companies are made aware of their problems sooner, and the management then has more time to put a survival plan in place and stave off the administrators.

Administration should be viewed as a clear last resort. The damage done to the long-term health of the company in terms of the brand and negative publicity are all too difficult to recover from.

In essence, the key to avoiding administration is to put in place the measures yourself that they would instigate.

As I see it these 163 Security companies currently under severe financial pressure have 3 options if they want to survive and be well-placed to capitalise when the market picks up.

1 Cut costs now

This is not easy; it means the company must accept it will be a smaller enterprise; internally this will not be well received in the organisation, as job losses will generally be part of the plan. It then needs to look at a survival plan and adopt the mindset of a receiver, cutting out non-profitable contracts, reducing overheads and also renegotiating with key suppliers. The objective must be to reduce the level of debt and get the business back on an even keel.

2 Sell the company or look for an investor.

Despite the doom and gloom in the market, this option should not be ruled out. 467 firms identified in the sector have cash to spend and could easily afford to finance a purchase out of cash. These 163 Danger companies are very vulnerable to an aggressive takeover, yet my view is there could be a great benefit in selling up. A new owner would give the company time and resource to turn their performance around. Sadly again, this will inevitable involve job loses and reducing the size of the company to rejuvenate the business.

3 Trade their way out

In the current economic climate this is the least likely strategy, most of these 163 companies have fairly long term problems, so its clear their current business is not competitive in the market and simply doing the same will not change anything. Combine this with the inability to raise extra finance and time is not on the side of this approach. Only a few of the 'Danger' companies have this as a viable option.

This latest analysis is designed to help companies understand their options in the changing marketplace. It will assist potential buyers in locating businesses in distress and help those considering selling up find potential buyer. Each of UK's leading 908 Security firms are named, analysed and valued.

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