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Credit: Melinda Gimpel

Insolvencies hit 5-year high in December

December 2023 saw a notable surge in insolvencies, reaching a peak not witnessed in five years.

Commercial credit demand fell by -0.9% in Q4, reflecting varying market conditions across the states according to the latest data from Equifax, the leading provider of credit information and analysis in Australia and New Zealand.

According to the Equifax Quarterly Commercial Insights – December 2023, the decline in overall business credit demand was driven by decreasing business loan applications (-4.1% vs the same period in 2022) and flat trade credit applications (-0.4%). Asset finance applications continue to buck the trend, increasing +8.9% in Q4.

Of all the states, Victoria had the largest decline in business loan applications in Q4, driven by significant drops in demand in the accommodation and food services (-37%) and construction (-16%) sectors.

Scott Mason, General Manager Commercial and Property Services, Equifax, said: “We are seeing some distinct differences in demand across the states, which led to mixed credit demand performance in Q4. For example, low business loan demand from the commercial centres of Victoria and NSW was offset by growth in WA, SA and Queensland. Similarly, high trade credit demand in WA, SA and Queensland offset reduced demand in NSW and the ACT.

“The increases in demand across all credit types in WA and SA could be reflective of a recent resurgence in the mining sector, which has benefited from stronger commodity prices.”

Insolvency rates at the total market level increased by +44% in the December quarter 2023 vs the same period in 2022. The construction industry continues to record high levels of insolvency, up 28% in Q4 2023 vs Q4 2022. 

“Total insolvencies in 2023 consistently surpassed pre-Covid (2019) volumes, due to challenging market conditions seen throughout 2023. This trend continued through to the end of the year, with December having the highest monthly insolvency volumes in the past five years,” said Mr Mason.

Average days beyond terms (DBT) across the market increased to 6.5 days in Q4, up 44% or 2 days compared to the same quarter in 2022. The construction industry continues to outpace the market, paying their dues on average 10 days beyond terms.

Business credit demand December 2023 vs December 2022

Overall business credit applications reduced (-0.9%) in the December quarter 2023. WA (+14%) and SA (+13%) experienced strong positive growth, followed by QLD (+4%). Conversely, VIC saw the largest decrease in business credit applications (-9%), followed by NSW (-2%). The ACT (-0%) and TAS (-0%) were flat in Q4.

Business loan applications decreased -4.1% in Q4. VIC (-16%) and NSW (-6%) saw the greatest declines, followed by TAS (-3%). WA (+17%), SA (+16%) and QLD (+3%) saw business loan demand increase in Q4, while ACT (-0%) was flat.

Trade credit applications fell marginally in Q4 2023 (-0.4%). There was no change in demand in QLD (-0%), while NSW (-6%) and ACT (-6%) experienced declining demand. SA (+6%), TAS (+6%), WA (+5%) and VIC (+2%) all saw growth in trade credit demand.

Asset finance (+8.9%) experienced strong demand growth in the December quarter, with applications up in all states. WA (+12%) and NSW (+10%) experienced the biggest increases in demand, followed closely by SA (+9%), VIC (+8%), QLD (+8%), TAS (+8%) and ACT (+4%).

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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