COVID-19 SPECIAL

Pandemic deals fatal blow to struggling businesses

Number of firms and businesses that ceased operations in first three months of year up by 78%

The first corporate casualties of Covid-19 have emerged.

In just the first three months of this year, 239 companies went into liquidation, Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) data showed. This is compared with 287 for the whole of last year - already a record high since 2005.

Liquidation or winding up of a company is a process where the company's assets are seized and sold, with the proceeds used to pay off its debts and liabilities.

Another 19,000 businesses and companies ceased operations between January and last month, data from BizInsights.net, an authorised information service provider of Acra, showed.

Experts said those that shuttered in recent months would already have been in trouble before the coronavirus struck, but the pandemic dealt the fatal blow.

Going forward, they expect to see record numbers of company closures and bankruptcies.

With uncertainties amid the United States-China trade war last year and now the Covid-19 outbreak - which first reared its head on Jan 23 in Singapore - companies have been bludgeoned by a double whammy, said OCBC Bank chief economist Selena Ling.

"The impending shutdowns announced are necessary circuit breakers for the Covid-19 pandemic but may levy additional pain on firms in the short term, suffering from a demand shock and supply chain disruptions," she added.

The Government has pledged $48 billion in a Resilience Budget to help companies.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on March 29 that the economy is being crippled by Covid-19 - aviation and tourism are dead, gig economy work is evaporating and the rest of the economy is being disrupted by supply chain upheavals.

''This is the time for you to play your part for our country, friends and loved ones. You are the most important defence in this war.''

DR RAYMOND ONG, general practitioner at Intemedical 24 Hour Clinic.

The number of companies and businesses that ceased operations in the first three months of this year jumped 78 per cent to 18,923, from 10,611 in the same period last year.

The number of companies that went into liquidation doubled in the first three months of the year, from 119 companies during the same period last year.

The list includes retailers, food and beverage (F&B) firms, transport companies and consultancy firms.

Maybank Kim Eng senior economist Chua Hak Bin said it would not be surprising if the number of business failures quadruples in the coming quarters as businesses struggle to stay afloat.

This, in turn, will result in huge job losses, he noted. During the global financial crisis, most of the layoffs were in the financial sector. Singapore saw some 17,000 job losses in 2008 and 23,000 in 2009.

  • 18,923

    Number of companies and businesses that ceased operations in the first three months of this year, a 78 per cent jump from 10,611 in the same period last year.

    239

    Number of companies that went into liquidation in the first three months of this year, compared with 119 companies in the same period last year.

With a lot more people working in the F&B, retail and airline and hospitality industries, which are hardest hit by the virus outbreak, the absolute number of people who will lose their jobs this time will be much higher, added Dr Chua.

Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) president Vincent Tan told The Straits Times that one-third of the 12,000 restaurants in Singapore could close in the next three months if the situation remains the same or worsens.

A spokesman for RAS said industry players should look at methods such as digitalisation to improve business processes and get ready to ride the upturn in the economy.