The businesses hit hardest by liquidations in South Africa right now

New data from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) shows that the total number of liquidations decreased by 1.6% in May 2022 compared with the same period a year ago.

Voluntary liquidations decreased by eight cases, while compulsory liquidations increased by five cases, the stats body said. The total number of liquidations decreased by 8.9% in the first five months of 2022 compared with the first five months of 2021.

The percentage change between March to May 2021 and March to May 2022, was -10.1%. Total liquidations amounted to 188 in May, up from 138 liquidations in April, and 182 in March.

Total liquidations to date amount to 788, down from 788 in 2021.

Total liquidations according to industry

The trade, catering and accommodation sector continues to struggle post the pandemic, while financing, insurance, real estate and business services also saw a relative high number of closures in the reporting period.

The Bureau for Economic Research (BER) said in a research note on Monday (27 June), that while South Africa’s hospitality sector has seen a post-Covid rebound from a low base, both hotels and restaurants still haven’t seen a full return to normal.

In the second quarter, activity expanded strongly in the hospitality sector for the third quarter in a row, albeit at a slightly slower pace compared to the first quarter, the BER said.

The very high year-on-year growth rates for activity are due to the low levels of a year ago when few people went out to eat or travel due to Covid-19 fears and restrictions, the group said.

The BER also pointed to Stats SA data that showed continued weak hotel room occupation rates, while the real income of restaurants was still 35% below pre-pandemic levels.

Commercial property activity

The second quarter of the 2022 FNB Commercial Property Broker Survey saw two of the three major commercial property sectors – office and retail – showing declines in perceived market sales activity levels, with only the industrial property market’s activity rating rising further.

The percentage of broker respondents perceiving business conditions to be satisfactory declined slightly in the second-quarter survey. This decline comes after a prior rising trend, remaining at a mediocre level, said John Loos, property sector strategist at FNB Commercial Property Finance.

This reflects an economy battling to fully recover from the very deep recession of 2020, and more recently pressured by rising interest rates, he said.

When asking brokers for their ratings of market activity levels on a scale of 1 to 10, we see that the group of respondents is still most upbeat about the industrial and warehouse property market. The industrial property market’s second quarter 2022 activity rating rose from 6.2 in the prior quarter to 6.35.

The retail property activity rating declined from 4.87 to 4.60 over the same two quarters. The office property market activity rating remained the weakest.

Rising interest rates may have begun to dampen the spirits of the market, said Loos. Global supply chain disruptions had been contributing to building global inflationary pressures, and more recently the war in Ukraine, and resultant sanctions and boycotts on Russia, have further exacerbated the problem, the strategist said.

The result has been 125 basis points’ worth of interest rate hikes by the SARB since late 2021, while a further 100 basis points’ worth of hikes are expected this year, said Loos.

The FNB Commercial Property Broker Survey surveys a sample of commercial property brokers in and around the six major metros of South Africa, namely, City of Joburg and Ekurhuleni (Greater Johannesburg), Tshwane, Ethekwini, City of Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay.

Loos noted that this survey response gives a perspective of business confidence in the commercial property sector, which may be starting to reflect the recent business confidence trend for the broader economy, the latter having weakened since a few quarters ago.

The RMB-BER Business Confidence Index for the second quarter of 2022 showed a similar 42% of survey respondents across the economy expressing satisfaction with business conditions, and this was a weakening from the prior quarter’s 46 reading.

FNB also asked brokers about their perceived decline, increase or no change in activity levels compared to six months ago.

In the second quarter 2022 survey, even the industrial and warehouse market showed signs of losing strengthening momentum. “This implies that the respondents perceiving a strengthening in activity in this sector over the prior 6 months exactly equals those that perceived weakening,” said Loos.

The retail market returned a small negative reading, while the office property market reading was mildly positive.

“These indices in all three markets thus point to very little activity growth momentum having been perceived of late, interest rate hiking this year possibly having been the main cause of demand growth running out of steam,” the strategist said.

Poor business confidence continues to weigh heavily on the commercial property market which has seen a marginal decrease in the number of commercial tenants in good standing in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the previous quarter.

The latest TPN Credit Bureau’s Commercial Rental Monitor showed that tenants in good standing are those that have paid their rent in full and on time at the end of each month.

TPN’s data showed that although the first quarter of 2022 indicates a small improvement compared to the last quarter of 2021, more than 10% of commercial tenants did not make any payment towards their rental expenses in the first quarter of this year, indicating the extent of their financial struggles.

Read: Businesses in South Africa are struggling to pay rent – but some areas are better off than others

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The businesses hit hardest by liquidations in South Africa right now