UK Insolvency Statistics – Dispute Register
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UK Insolvency Statistics

UK Insolvency Statistics

This article was researched and written by The Business Disputes Register (

KEY findings

  • Insolvency rates vary significantly by Industry. Publishing of newspapers has the highest rate
  • Companies over 40 years old have higher insolvency rates than younger companies. Companies seem to go through a danger phase when they are 9 years old. 
  • Age related insolvency trends vary considerably by industry. For example, very old restaurants tend not to become insolvent, whereas it is the opposite for newspaper publishing
  • PLCs and three times more likely to become insolvent than private limited companies. 
  • Surprisingly, companies with a year-end accounting date of July are more than twice as likely to go into administration than companies whose year-end is March.

Industry sector

Industry sectors most likely to become insolvent

Rank Industry Sector (Standard Industry Code) Annual Insolvency rate
1 Publishing of newspapers (58130) 5.69%
2 Wholesale of meat and meat products (46320) 3.75%
3 Licensed restaurants (56101) 2.78%
4 Credit granting by non-deposit taking finance houses and other specialist consumer credit grantors (64921) 2.55%
5 Manufacture of basic iron and steel and of ferro-alloys (24100) 2.44%
6 Licensed clubs (56301) 2.38%
7 Manufacture of office and shop furniture (31010) 2.29%
8 Manufacture of electric lighting equipment (27400) 2.17%
9 Public houses and bars (56302) 2.11%
10 Forging, pressing, stamping and roll-forming of metal; powder metallurgy (25500) 2.09%

Industry sectors least likely to become insolvent

Rank Industry Sector (SIC) Annual Insolvency rate
1 74300 - Translation and interpretation activities 0.00%
2 85530 - Driving school activities 0.00%
3 01130 - Growing of vegetables and melons, roots and tubers 0.00%
4 77291 - Renting and leasing of media entertainment equipment 0.00%
5 01621 - Farm animal boarding and care 0.00%
6 85422 - Post-graduate level higher education 0.00%
7 91030 - Operation of historical sites and buildings and similar visitor attractions 0.00%
8 23700 - Cutting, shaping and finishing of stone 0.00%
9 03120 - Freshwater fishing 0.00%
10 78101 - Motion picture, television and other theatrical casting activities 0.00%

Company age

On average, a company has a half percent chance of going into administration in any 12 month period. This average is misleadingly low because a very high proportion of companies are very young (young companies are unlikely to be insolvent in their first few months of existence). It is worth researching the age of the company you are dealing with because the insolvency rate changes significantly with age as can be seen in the adjoining chart.
Companies less than a year old are the least likely to go into administration within the next 6 months. This is not surprising as most start-ups have enough cash to last 18 months. However, the risk of going into administration shoots up during the first few months since the inception of the company reaching a first peak of 0.8% at 21 months. The companies that survive this first 21 month hurdle gain a reprieve as the administration rate drops to 0.55%, but only briefly as the rate starts to climb up again reaching a peak of just under 1% when companies reach 9 years of age.
After 9 years, the prospects steadily get better. Probably due to experience gained, the companies are now better run and more resilient. 14 year-old companies are probably the safest to do business with. However, after 18 years, the survival prospects steadily and slowly get worse over time, presumably because they are increasingly outdated and increasingly complacent as they get older. Interestingly, the survival prospects of companies over 90 years old start to improve with age. It should be noted that the above is a generalisation. The pattern varies for different industries as can be seen in the following 3 examples:


For the 54 thousand actively trading restaurants that are registered on Companies house there are 4 hurdles in a typical industry life-cycle. The first hurdle is at the 2 year mark where 3.75% of restaurants find themselves in non-voluntary administration. Once passed that hurdle the rate drops to 2.5% but only for 2 years when it shoots back up to a peak of 4% for restaurants that are about 5 years old. Thereafter the survivors face better prospects and the administration rate steadily declines to 1.8% for restaurants that are 15 years old. Presumably these restaurants now have an established clientele and they are getting better at managing their operations. However, after 15 years the restaurants seem to be going out of fashion or are facing new challenges as the administration rate climbs back up to nearly 4% again by the age of 21 years. Thereafter the survivors enjoy another 10 years of improving administration rates before reaching the fourth hurdle where the administration rate peaks for restaurants that are 37 years of age. Amazingly, based on Companies Data, out of 246 restaurants over 40 years old not a single one is in administration (at the time of writing); it seems that for restaurants older than 40 years old, age is an asset.

Pubs and bars

Analysis of the 23,000 actively trading pubs registered at companies house shows that the administration life curve for pubs and clubs is similar to restaurants but with only 2 hurdles. The first administrations peak is at about 3.7% and takes place between 3 and 5 years of age. The rate subsequently rapidly declines to about 1.5% years till pubs reach an age of 20 years. Thereafter the rate climbs upwards over the next 40 years to 4% by the time they are 60 years old and then accelerates to close to 9% by the time they are 80 years old. Similarly to restaurants, above a certain age (80 years in the case of pubs), pubs do not seem to go bust.

Newspaper publishing

For the 791 newspaper publishers registered on Companies House, the trend is clear: the older the company the more likely it will be in administration. Younger publishers fare reasonably well, with fewer than 2% of newspaper companies that are less than 14 years old going into administration in any 12 month period. However, for older publishers the picture is bleaker: the administration rate steadily climbs up to a peak of 38% for publishers that are over 80 years old.

Company type

Counter-intuitively, Public Limited Companies are most likely to go into administration than any other type of company, this is despite (or perhaps due to) easier access to capital, regulatory oversight and public scrutiny. 

Company type Number of companies sampled % in administration
PRI/LTD BY GUAR/NSC (Private, limited by guarantee, no share capital) 52,986 0.11%
Community Interest Company 11,035 0.12%
PRI/LBG/NSC (Private, Limited by guarantee, no share capital, use of 'Limited' exemption) 24,287 0.14%
Limited Liability Partnership 36,725 0.37%
Private Limited Company 2,709,216 0.55%
Public Limited Company 3,845 1.74%

PLCs are more likely to survive the first two years of their existence than Private limited companies, however, thereafter they become significantly more likely to go into administration.

Accounting year-end month

It is worthwhile to check the accounting year-end month of the company you are doing business with because there is a surprisingly pronounced variance in administration rates depending on the month. For example, as can be seen from the chart below a company with year end of July has over double the risk of being in administration compared to a company with a year end of March.