Uk distressed acquisition financing challenges

Challenges of Financing Distressed Acquisitions in the UK

What makes financing distressed acquisitions in the UK so tricky?

As Covid-19’s impacts linger, the UK braces for a spike in distressed mergers and acquisitions (M&A) from Autumn. Many businesses will need restructuring or may become acquisition targets. The urgency, complex nature, and high-risk environment make distressed acquisition financing challenging. With financial strains, these deals must close quickly, often without the luxury of thorough due diligence.

The success of these transactions relies heavily on timely, feasible, and well-planned structuring. Recognising and addressing key issues early is crucial. Pension duties, tax, and legal matters need quick attention. Law firm Burges Salmon points out the importance of early action.

In the UK, buying distressed assets means balancing stakeholders’ needs with financial troubles and insolvency risks. A fast, practical offer with proof of funds is often more appealing. This is better than the highest bid without guaranteed financing.

Overview of Distressed Acquisitions

Distressed acquisitions are about buying or selling companies in financial trouble. These transactions often happen quickly, under pressure, with less checking than usual. Companies in England and Wales have faced the highest levels of corporate insolvency since 2009. This situation has made these purchases more common.

Buyers must be aware of many investment risks. They face limited guarantees from sellers. Because everything moves fast, there’s little time for deep checks. This fast pace brings high financial risks. It’s essential to consider laws on competition and international investments to avoid legal issues.

Temporary relief for struggling companies comes through Administration or Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs). CVAs have grown by 14% between September 2022 and October 2023. They help companies reorganise or sell off assets. Other methods like restructuring plans or liquidation are last resorts to save value.

The UK’s M&A activity is at an all-time high, with more distressed M&A expected soon. Sectors like retail, manufacturing, and technology are especially affected. While some buyers aim to improve operations, others with enough resources look for good deals in these challenging situations.

The biggest risks in distressed acquisitions fall on the buyers. Limited time for checks and not enough guarantees increase these risks. Also, company leaders must focus on their duties to shareholders or creditors. They must be careful about legal liabilities, including wrongful and fraudulent trading, to meet legal and shareholder standards.

Economic Conditions Impacting Financing

Today’s economic conditions are hitting UK businesses hard. Financial distress has shot up by 30.8% in the first quarter of 2024. Now, 554,554 companies are struggling, up from 424,041 in the same period last year.

This issue is widespread, touching all 22 sectors. Particularly, Construction, Food & Drug Retailers, and General Retailers are deeply affected. They saw distress rise by 38.6%, 40.8%, and 38.7% respectively in early 2024. Additionally, 40,174 UK businesses are in a critical state, up 20.1% from last year.

Retail and hospitality are facing tough times due to inflation. The situation is made worse by the unstable energy sector. This volatility threatens many firms. Companies’ ability to stay afloat is now more important than ever. It’s critical to evaluate their survival chances during acquisitions.

Given these tough times, flexible deal-making is a must. When a company is in trouble, directors must focus on creditor interests. This focus affects how deals are made and negotiated. Adaptability and precision are key to ensuring these businesses can last.

Key Regulatory Considerations

When doing M&A deals in the UK, it’s vital to focus on regulatory matters, like antitrust and foreign investment rules. The economic effects of the pandemic haven’t softened the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in its strict review process. Regulators stress the need for an early, detailed check.

The CMA closely checks antitrust issues in distressed deals to protect competition. Buyers must actively understand the legal and regulatory landscape they’re entering. This helps avoid any negative impacts on sector competition.

There’s growing concern over cross-border deals, especially in key areas like healthcare and national security. Foreign buyers need to know about the UK’s watchful eye on these transactions. It can affect how a deal is structured and carried out.

To handle these regulatory challenges, careful strategic planning and expert advice are essential. This approach helps deal with antitrust matters, investment limits, and strict rules from the CMA and UK Government.

Funding Strategies for Distressed Acquisitions

Funding strategies for distressed acquisitions need deep understanding of the process. This includes knowing how to handle both solvent and insolvent deals. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased distressed acquisitions, offering special chances for investors.

Funding strategies

Choosing between solvent share sales or insolvent asset sales is key. Each choice demands a specific strategy. For example, buying secured debt at a lower price can help investors use restructuring options like Scheme, Restructuring Plan, or CVA to gain control before completing the buy.

The market keeps a strong interest in buying businesses that are strong but financially struggling due to the pandemic. Handling these deals often means dealing with senior secured creditors, who have a lot of power because of their legal rights.

W&I insurance use is growing, offering extra security for buyers. This is crucial as fast due diligence reduces the warranty protection usually available.

Buyers need to be smart about using restructuring tools to make the buying process smoother. They can pick from a pre-packaged insolvency option or go through a court insolvency. These methods help avoid risks like being accused of preference or making undervalued deals.

For those using a loan to own approach, it’s vital to understand the target’s debt situation. This method involves buying secured debt cheaper and then turning it into equity. This could be agreed upon, done through enforcing security, or through insolvency processes. It’s important to have a clear plan to turn debt into ownership to make this strategy work.

Different types of distressed M&A deals involve stressed, distressed, and insolvency situations. Each needs a solid understanding of funding strategies and restructuring tools for effective handling. This ensures deals are done quickly and successfully, benefiting everyone involved.

Challenges of UK Credit Markets

In the last ten years, the UK’s credit markets have grown massively, especially in private credit. Direct lending makes up 44% of this area, becoming very big. Financing distressed buys is tough. It involves complex capital structures and dealing with senior lenders who have a lot of power.

Direct lending mostly happens in the mid-market. This is where companies make between €5 to €30 million in EBITDA. Lenders now face the challenge of investing in bigger deals. They have to navigate changes in loans, bonds, and direct lending. The push for higher profits is making them look towards new places like Poland.

Direct lending has grown quickly, offering more options than traditional methods. But, this has its own problems. Lenders are pushed into bigger deals. This has slightly raised the chances of not getting their money back in 2022 and 2023. To fix issues, buying a troubled company’s debt can help in restructuring to save the company’s value.

Now, companies can take more risks without much oversight due to cov-lite financings. Yet, when money runs short, and they need new funds, tough talks begin. The way economic ownership is handled shows why being good at negotiating is vital in these complicated situations.

New rules like the FCA’s Sustainability Disclosure Requirements and the Economic Crime Act of 2023 make things more complex. For distressed buys, it’s key to know how to use restructuring options within these laws. Using the Restructuring Plan tool is crucial for dealing with tough situations in a way that’s fair for creditors or shareholders.

Risk Mitigation in Distressed Acquisitions

From Autumn, we expect more distressed situations due to the pandemic’s economic toll and less Government aid. When buying in these scenarios, reducing risk is key. This means buyers must carefully check everything due to often scant information.

Key elements for success include identifying liabilities, ensuring regulatory compliance, and understanding tax impacts. By carefully checking these areas, buyers can correctly price in potential issues. This step is crucial for determining risk value in these complex deals.

Knowing the best deal structure is crucial, with many preferring asset deals to lessen risks. Looking into possible adjustments post-deal for unexpected liabilities is also important. This helps plan for surprises and clawback dangers.

Holding back part of the payment can balance risk and opportunity. It allows buyers to safeguard their interest while still making appealing offers. But remember, warranties and indemnities are often limited in these deals, so focusing on risk strategies is vital.

Don’t ignore competition law. A deal could trigger scrutiny if it consolidates your market position. Tackling these risks early is vital for a smooth process.

The UK’s new insolvency rules offer fresh strategies for distressed buys. Knowing these options helps with identifying liabilities, pricing risks, and securing deals.

UK Distressed Acquisition Financing Challenges

Financing distressed acquisitions in the UK has unique hurdles. One big issue is the limited nature of contractual protections. Buyers often find that usual warranties and indemnities (W&I insurance) are not enough, making it critical to find other risk mitigation ways.

The need for quick due diligence amplifies these issues. With 554,554 UK businesses struggling financially in early 2024, a 30.8% increase from last year, there’s a rush to close deals. Buyers face tight due-diligence periods and often lack detailed vendor reports, increasing the risk of missing critical liabilities.

Deal certainty is another major challenge. Sellers want fast, sure sales, which pressures buyers to have solid financing ready. Deals based on conditions are usually less attractive, pushing buyers to show strong financial support from the start. Sometimes, the need for swift funding wins over higher offers, favouring those ready to fund immediately.

The increased financial distress, especially in construction and retail sectors, demands flexible strategies. Rigorous due diligence under time limits means making big decisions quickly, often without full financial info. Buyers must use alternative data and valuation models to make smart acquisition choices.

Issues with W&I insurance add to the complexity. Its rigid and often limited use in distressed situations requires custom solutions. Buyers might negotiate bespoke insurance or look for other ways to share risk, protecting their investments.

In summary, the UK’s distressed acquisition scene is complex, with many financing challenges. From getting contractual protections and working around limited W&I insurance, to ensuring deal certainty with fast due diligence, adaptability and innovative financing are key. Buyers need to be quick and inventive to succeed.

Strategic Financial Planning

Strategic financial planning when buying troubled businesses is quite detailed. It looks closely at the business’s debts and the issues in its corporate structure. This includes figuring out the business’s worth and understanding the market for such deals. NDAs are often crucial at the start, especially before sharing detailed financial data.

Buyers should show they’re serious by making deposits and proving they can fund the purchase right away. Usually, lower cash offers that can be paid immediately are better than higher, but uncertain ones. The short time for checking the business’s condition means buyers must be quick, smart, and forward-thinking.

Strategic financial planning

Talking to creditors is key in this planning. Directors need to look after creditor interests while trying to get the best sale price. This is to avoid bankruptcy if the sale doesn’t cover all debts. It’s vital to plan for unexpected problems and stay flexible.

It’s also important to sort out funding for after the buy. This means getting enough money for the start, setting up bank accounts, and getting the needed licenses. There are laws to protect employees, and it’s important to think about how this affects costs. Also, working out cash flow with suppliers is necessary if the business was failing before.

The aim is to keep control when talking to creditors and avoid legal trouble for dishonest trading. Leaders must deal with these challenges carefully, knowing good planning is key to successful buying.

Valuation Difficulties

Valuing businesses in trouble has its unique issues. It’s especially hard to check how solvent they are and how much cash they have on hand. It’s key to get this right to see if a deal makes sense. Private equity investors often struggle with how much a business is worth. They find it hard because what the sellers want and what buyers will pay can be very different. This can make talks tricky and slow down decisions.

When considering troubled deals, it’s vital to quickly figure out if a business is financially sound. There’s usually not much time or information to work with. Because of this, buyers have to make fast, informed choices. They often have to go forward with little protection if things go wrong.

Keeping a good relationship with all parties involved is very important during the valuation process. It’s necessary to agree on fair terms with the management to help the business grow after the buyout. Handling these relationships well can avoid extra costs that are not always obvious right away.

It’s also crucial to follow all the rules related to company law when buying or merging with another company. Buyers have to keep an eye on any regulations that could delay the deal. Specialist financial buyers might find it easier to get through these legal hoops than other buyers. This can make the buying process smoother and help with figuring out a more accurate price.

In summary, valuing troubled businesses is about juggling checks on solvency, managing cash flow problems, and keeping good relationships with everyone involved. Focusing on these points can give buyers a better chance to do well in their transactions.

Board Considerations and Responsibilities

Boards face big tasks as they deal with financial troubles. The economic scene has led to more company failures in England and Wales than we’ve seen since 2009. As a result, directors need to focus on what’s best for creditors, not just shareholders. This makes careful talks with creditors and smart decision-making even more crucial.

With higher chances of going bust, it’s key for boards to plan well. They must use the skills of restructuring experts. This is especially true for fast-paced M&A deals in distress, which must be done quickly. These deals often have special terms, making it important for boards to act fast and wisely. New laws, like the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, offer tools such as the Part A1 Moratorium. This gives directors a chance to try restructuring to save their company.

There’s been a 14% rise in CVAs, showing a tilt towards trying to reorganise when possible. Yet, directors face the danger of personal liability when money is tight. Getting advice from legal experts and adding pros to the team who know about insolvency can help a lot. With so much at risk, directors must keep clear records and talk openly with everyone involved. This helps avoid claims of wrongful trading.

Importance of Speed in Transactions

Speed in transactions is crucial now more than ever. This is especially true as corporate insolvencies in England and Wales hit their highest since 2009. October 2023 saw a 14% increase in Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) from the year before. This shows the need for companies in trouble to find quick solutions. Fast deal completion is essential for business continuity and to stop financial loss.

In distressed M&A transactions, transactional urgency is key. These deals often need to wrap up quickly, sometimes in days. This leaves little time for thorough checks. Buyers must be ready to move fast and offer attractive deals to win negotiations. Meeting stakeholder demands without losing deal quality shows a buyer’s quick thinking and understanding of the distressed market.

Directors of struggling companies have to carefully consider their duties during sale discussions. They must think about what’s best for the company and its creditors. This is challenging when suitable buyers are scarce, or time is short. The choice between reorganisation and liquidation depends on the speed in transactions.

Being able to make quick, well-thought-out bids in distressed sales shows a buyer’s skill. Highlighting the speed in transactions and the importance of transactional urgency helps keep business going. Thus, fast but cautious action is critical for success in the UK’s distressed acquisition market.


Navigating the financing of distressed acquisitions in the UK requires insight, fast action, and legal know-how. The pandemic’s economic effects will increase distressed cases, offering both risks and chances for those ready to take them. Understanding these challenges and the details of distressed M&A allows stakeholders to create plans for success.

Handling distressed deals needs a careful approach due to strict timelines and planning needs. Issues like pension duties, tax debts, and antitrust laws must be dealt with quickly for a smooth deal. Buyers prefer buying assets to avoid liabilities, but there’s often little information available. This calls for a strong review to lower risks and follow laws.

Companies in distress face huge stress, especially with money problems and the risk of personal liability. Speed is crucial in deals to prevent serious harm to the business. Also, changes in the UK’s insolvency laws add more difficulty. Yet, with strategic planning, risk reduction, and legal advice, stakeholders can overcome these challenges. They can achieve real economic success in distressed M&A.

Written by
Scott Dylan
Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan is the Co-founder of Inc & Co, a seasoned entrepreneur, investor, and business strategist renowned for his adeptness in turning around struggling companies and driving sustainable growth.

As the Co-Founder of Inc & Co, Scott has been instrumental in the acquisition and revitalization of various businesses across multiple industries, from digital marketing to logistics and retail. With a robust background that includes a mix of creative pursuits and legal studies, Scott brings a unique blend of creativity and strategic rigor to his ventures. Beyond his professional endeavors, he is deeply committed to philanthropy, with a special focus on mental health initiatives and community welfare.

Scott's insights and experiences inform his writings, which aim to inspire and guide other entrepreneurs and business leaders. His blog serves as a platform for sharing his expert strategies, lessons learned, and the latest trends affecting the business world.


Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter and be the first to know about my news and tips.