Companies in difficulty: 13% increase in defaults by companies
Restaurateur Luis Cabrera has been granted a three-month suspension of execution on the loan from Australian lender Prospa he took out last year in an attempt to save Auckland’s central restaurant he set up there at the age of 11.
Elliott Street’s Besos Latinos restaurant closed its doors for good in October last year, crushed by Covid closures, which followed a slowdown in activity caused by the City Rail Link construction project.
But Cabrera, who works for a reduced wage subsidy at a sister restaurant of the same name in the Wynyard neighborhood, said, âI’m being honest with them. I am unable to make payments.
He is one of many business owners and former business owners, sinking under debt incurred to survive the multiple rounds of business restrictions imposed on Auckland in an attempt to eliminate Covid. Credit reporting agency Centrix said businesses defaults on their loans rose 13% in the past three months.
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âIt’s an absolute mess. Business closures. Company defaults. The last quarter saw a 13% increase in defaults, and the trend is on the rise, âsaid Centrix CEO Keith McLaughlin.
Hospitality businesses were hit particularly hard, and many were unable to break even by providing click-and-collect takeout services.
The Restaurant Association has called for targeted support for hotel businesses, but the government has yet to decide to provide it.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay announce 24 new cases of Covid-19 and describe the introduction of vaccination certificates (full press conference).
Cabrera, a father of young children aged six and three, said his debt has grown since the restaurant closed by about $ 10,000 with default charges and interest of more than $ 45,500, he said. he declares.
He faced a court hearing in mid-October over the debt, but although he feared the hearing would lead him to bankruptcy, he couldn’t find a legal aid lawyer. to represent it.
During the interview with Thing, Prospa called Cabrera to tell him he would freeze his loan for three months, acknowledging the Auckland lockdown was making his life difficult.
âI was discussing your situation a bit with management and they offered to propose a three-month moratorium on your loan. This basically means that we can put everything on hold for the next three months until the end of the year to allow your situation to improve, âa representative from Prospa told Cabrera.
The court hearing was canceled, Prospa said.
âNext time we speak, we need to have some sort of plan in place,â Prospa told him.
Cabrera said the emotional debt toll was less dire than during the first nationwide foreclosure in 2020 as he tried to save his Elliot Street restaurant.
âThe first time we felt we hit a hard rock. We didn’t know what was going to happen. I even thought they might put me in jail for not paying my debt. I had not paid my GST. I haven’t paid the rent, âhe said.
This terrible uncertainty was where other hotel business owners still struggled to save their businesses.
While the removal of assembly numbers in level 2 alert zones was welcome, Auckland’s level 3 sites were still suffering and needed more help, according to the Restaurant Association.
“Auckland’s hospitality industry has repeatedly been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and it is time for our government to recognize this by providing specific and targeted financial relief to our sector,” said the Chief Executive Officer of the Restaurant Association, Marisa Bidois.
The wage subsidy was a boon to employees and was not designed to keep businesses afloat, McLaughlin said.
In addition to businesses not paying their debts, McLaughlin said the rate of business closings remained high and business registrations fell 11%.
He said the numbers showed the reality of life for business owners in Auckland, especially the real estate, transport and hospitality companies which made up the bulk of those missing payments.
âIt’s been seven weeks and there’s no end in sight,â McLaughlin said.
âThey survived 2020 and were just starting to get back on their feet, and they’re stranded again,â McLaughlin said.
Uncertainty over whether Auckland’s trade would return to normal meant people did not know what to say to their lenders and owners, he said.
He said Prospa’s debt moratorium for Cabrera mirrors actions taken by many lenders.
âThey are nice,â he says.
The easing of lockdown restrictions in Auckland, which meant people could meet other people in open spaces like parks, was not yet cause for optimism, McLaughlin said.
âBusiness owners whose businesses go bankrupt can have a picnic in the park. How does this help them? ” he said.
Outside of Auckland, things look a lot better for business.
Now at Alert Level 2, the rest of the country has seen credit demand fully recover to pre-lockdown levels, McLaughlin said.