Tech sector drives rise in UK revenue warnings

A surge in revenue warnings by expertise companies drove a prolific first quarter for such bulletins from UK-listed firms as financial uncertainty led to delayed and cancelled contracts.

UK-listed firms issued 75 revenue warnings within the first three months of the yr, in keeping with evaluation by EY Parthenon, their highest first-quarter quantity because the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020.

Financial uncertainty was an element that led firms to warn on earnings, the analysis discovered, with greater than a 3rd of companies citing delayed, reviewed or cancelled contracts of their updates to buyers.

“Financial forecasts could have seen some enchancment in current months, nevertheless the extraordinary energy of headwinds over the past two years has left some companies dealing with recession-like situations,” mentioned Jo Robinson, EY-Parthenon companion.

Volatility fuelled a surge in revenue warnings within the expertise and telecoms sectors, with the quantity virtually tripling year-on-year to a three-year excessive of 16.

“Important disruption and uncertainty, significantly in consumer-facing markets, is having a knock-on impact on the telecoms, media and expertise sector as companies re-evaluate their price bases and delay buying choices,” mentioned Will Fisher, companion at EY.

Contract points had been talked about in 69 per cent of warnings within the sector, which was hit by rounds of cost-cutting. Elevated borrowing prices and turmoil in banking markets sparked by the collapse of technology-focused lender SVB additionally contributed to a difficult fundraising atmosphere for tech firms.

The analysis additionally highlighted a better than common market dropout charge for companies that warned on earnings a number of occasions because the begin of 2022.

Nearly 30 per cent of the 31 firms to have posted three such bulletins because the begin of final yr have delisted or are within the technique of being offered. Usually, one in 5 firms delist inside a yr of their third warning, largely due to insolvency.

A complete of 98 firms have warned on earnings greater than as soon as because the starting of final yr, in keeping with researchers. The approaching yr can be “essential” mentioned Robinson, as insolvency often spikes a couple of yr after a revenue warning peak.

The start of the yr introduced a slight reprieve for the retail sector, which in 2022 reported essentially the most revenue warnings. Retailers issued 5 within the first three months of the yr, down from 9 within the remaining quarter of final yr.

However inflation, larger borrowing prices and a tightening in shopper spending will proceed so as to add stress on a sector that’s already below stress. Almost a 3rd of the UK’s listed retailers have warned on earnings a minimum of twice since January of final yr, effectively above the 8 per cent cross-sector common.

Bar chart of Number of warnings in the first quarter showing Tech and retail companies signalled the most distress

Regardless of brightening financial knowledge equivalent to an increase in shopper confidence, companies throughout the UK risked battling finance prices and elevated working capital calls for all through 2023, Robinson warned.

Quarterly revenue warnings have remained above the 10-year quarterly common, excluding 2020, for greater than a yr. UK firms issued 305 warnings within the first three months of 2020, their highest first-quarter quantity.

“Whereas the UK economic system seems to be turning a nook, restoration will not be assured,” mentioned Robinson.


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