Filling in the gaps in the safety net
20 April 2020
Today's the day that the government's Job Retention Scheme gets going in earnest with the portal open for firms to apply for payment. And the word Furlough has well and truly re-entered the language with many firms already having Furloughed staff, and which will now be applying to get the grants. I know that my tax colleagues have been active today helping with this.
If you were being unkind you'd say that that government's support for business whilst swift and very welcome was full of gaps. These are gradually being filled. The Corona Business Interuption Loan Scheme (CBILs) was onerous in terms of the guarantees required from business. But now the guarantee requirements have been softened. Then there was a gap above CBILs and below the Corvid Corporate Financing Facility for larger businesses. This has now been filled with the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) . Incidentally why the confused approach to naming these, one's Coronavirus, and other Corvid?
All this still leaves a gap for businesses that don't pass the viability test for CBILs - ie that it would have been viable in 2019 and will be in 2021. Such businesses are going to have to look to other sources of finance, including the various tax related supports that have been made available, and negotiations with their creditors. Expect to see the insolvency practitioners busy with a rash of CVAs, prepacks and phoenixes in the Autumn for those firms that can get through until then.
And yesterday the Chancellor announced a £1.25Bn rescue package for start-ups. He intends to grant c£750m to start-ups through Innovate UK's network of funds. And to set up the Future Fund which will channel £500m via the British Business Bank to suitable candidates. Cleverly the loans are conditional on private investors putting in 50% of the money, which should help to filter out the lost causes. The government will have some kind of equity conversion after three years unless the loans are repaid. That either means that they'll be left with equity in no hopers, or will have soft conversion rights - or new investors would surely take them out. But I guess that's a small issue compared with the other burdens the treasury is taking on to support business.
This must be welcome news for venture capital / private equity funds which I know have been closely monitoring their portfolio investments through this crisis.
So the safety net probably still has holes in it - but at least they're becoming fewer. It'd be nice however if the gaps could be filled before business groups have to start lobbying as was the case with the start-up community which looked enviously at the generous support in places like Germany, and lobbied hard for this.
We have a Corona Virus hub on our website with lots of information and also practical insights on how to access the right funds.
If you're grappling with how best to access this support, or would simply like to discuss your strategy, get in touch - I'd be interested to hear how you're tackling it.