Europe and the U.S. are about to experience a significant increase in business failures.
That's the conclusion reached by Paris-based Euler Hermes, the world's largest credit insurer, in a recently released 57-page report on business insolvencies worldwide.
With the exception of Japan, which recently emerged from its own "Lost Decade," Euler expects that almost every country in the world will see a rise in insolvencies far greater than previous economic downturns.
According to Euler, 28,000 businesses went bust in the U.S. in 2007. In 2008, that number increased nearly 45 percent -- to 42,000 insolvencies. Chapter 7 liquidations, Chapter 11 reorganizations, and Chapter 13 filings for individuals all showed dramatic increases in 2008; the only decrease came in the area of Chapter 12 filings, a chapter of the U.S. bankruptcy code usually reserved for family farmers and fishermen. (Who knows--maybe we'll all be farming or fishing six months from now.)
In 2009, Euler estimates that an additional 62,000 U.S. companies will become insolvent.If accurate, those numbers would mark the largest increase in corporate bankruptcies since the U.S. recession of 1993.
The situation is just as bad in Europe. Euler expects the number of insolvencies in Western Europe to rise from 169,000 this year to 197,000 next year, an increase of 16.7 percent. U.K. firms will account for a large portion of that bankruptcy surge, with the burst of the real estate bubble and worsening finance and banking crisis creating havoc for British companies. Spain is also expected to be particularly hard hit from the collapse of the construction and real estate market.
Euler believes that German companies will continue to suffer from bad debt risk, while The Netherlands, which underwent only a 10 percent increase in bankruptcies this year, will see its insolvency numbers jump nearly 40 percent in 2009. In Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic and Hungary will see bankruptcies increase by 15 and 20 percent, respectively.
As corporate failures become more widespread, Euler states that it will take actions to solidify its own business. The credit insurer will increase the premiums it charges to act as an underwriter on deals.