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How to buy businesses in administration or liquidation

5th May, 2021
Robert Moore

Written ByRobert Moore

Marketing Manager


Rob has over a decade of experience in web and general marketing. He has extensive knowledge of the Insolvency sector and has helped many worried directors with their questions.

Rob is now working with the Board at KSA Group Ltd to develop strategic marketing programmes to support the business plan and drive more company rescues.

Robert Moore
  • “How do we buy businesses in administration or liquidation”?
  • Who is going to do the turnaround management?
  • Technical Warnings

Warning! Be prepared to lose all of your investment. Secondly, do not rely upon buying an insolvent business as your only source of future income or investment!

This brief article (and certainly not legal advice) shows you how to go about buying a business from an insolvency practitioner (IP) acting as the office holder.

“How do we buy businesses in administration or liquidation”?

First some common sense advice.

Targets; we are regularly approached by people looking to buy a business in administration or liquidation, or even a CVA. Our initial question is always what type of business are you looking for? When the response is any, then we get very worried!

There are literally hundreds of different types of business out there, do you know enough about them all to be able to save/rescue/turnaround and drive ANY type of business? Remember this is a failed (or failing) company, its future depends on an immense amount of hard work, some luck and generally your money. You have the job of business rescue!

So, set up a target term sheet, i.e. what type of business do you want to acquire, where in the country, what size and what markets it is involved in? Set up a target price structure – make sure that you have the money or know a good source for the funding needed. Then, prepare an asset/means report as most IPs will look to see if you have the means available to buy their clients assets.

Organise a letter from funders – banks and proof of means should then be available quickly.

Make a list of advisors, who can help advise you on the deal. You may need a lawyer and accountancy advice at the very least.

Who is going to do the turnaround management?

Who will run the company – YOU? If yes, how many days a week do you want to work in or more pertinently ON the business? If you are not going to be available to run it, do you have people available who can run it for you? If you require, KSA can help with our specialist turnaround teams.

Accessing the Market for your Targets

There are many sources of such opportunities, but it will require some leg work.

Try all of the following:

  1. Use that lists businesses for sale, in administration along with some financial data on each company and they will email them to you. See this page if you are interested in purchasing the assets from companies in liquidation
  2. Read the Financial Times every Tuesday. It has adverts from insolvency practitioners (IPs) concerning the companies they are handling.
  3. Do web searches for failed companies, use RSS or subscribe to BBC, news services and so forth.
  4. Perhaps the most fruitful source will be to actually build a relationship with a number of IPs such as KSA Group. We have a number of such opportunities available most of the time. Companies that are in a CVA may also be open to offers. These businesses will be solvent but may still be keen for an investor or buyer as a way out. A CVA needs a lot of effort on the part of the directors and a proportion of them do fail.
  5. You could also contact several IP firms like Begbies Traynor, Grant Thornton or one or more of the big 4 accountancy firms. Tell them your target business types and send them a synopsis of what you are looking for. Every receiver, administrator or liquidator should market the assets or business they’re working with. So, if you get on their distribution list you will get early notice once they’re appointed.
  6. Try a called IP-BID. Its website is at

Soon, you will have a flow of opportunities coming in. Make sure to have some early discussion about what the issues are and the time frame the office holder is working to.

Evaluation of Targets

Once you have some business opportunities I would suggest using a careful evaluation method. You may wish to design your own mini due diligence approach to sift opportunities initially. NB this cannot replace proper due diligence if you decide to make an offer!

This should include obvious questions like:

  • What, or more likely WHO was the cause of the business failure?
  • Has the cause been addressed?
  • What is the market for its products?
  • Is there a profitable niche within the market place for the company?
  • Can it be viable if sales are lower and costs are reduced?
  • Is it within easy travelling time for you?
  • Is the existing management capable of running the company if you are not there 5 days a week? If not who will?
  • What are the business’s objectives, do they match yours (for example can it be rebuilt and make good returns)?
  • What is the EXIT strategy? Yes, I know you are thinking of buying it! But how would you plan to exit? Too many people get too attached to the deal and not the exit!
  • What are you buying? The assets? The name? The goodwill? The customer base?
  • Develop your own diligence list and then stick to assessing each opportunity this way. Don’t deviate from the planned target type, size and market, unless you have wide experience. So, if you identify a good opportunity that fits your criteria then move quickly.

What is the deal?

Is it a deal to buy the assets and goodwill? It’s very unlikely that you will buy the company or the debtor book, but you should consider work in progress, stock, assets (financed or unencumbered).

Then ask if the deal is one payment, deferred consideration or a mixture of upfront and deferred. It’s often possible to get a time to acquire deal. But the office holder will generally want a lump up front to cover their costs.

Get access quickly to do due diligence. This is a must! Walk around the business, feel it, touch it and ask lots of questions to anyone who will talk to you within the business.

Find out what went wrong. Has the business lost its best customers? Can it supply cost effectively in the future? What HUMAN assets walked out the door when the IP came in? Will the hoped-for new product / service ever get off the ground? Is the management motivated or simply serving their time while looking for a better job?

Working capital required?

Do your forecasting for the new company based on sensible numbers, not pie in the sky. How much money will the new company need for working capital after you have paid for the assets? There is no point in buying it and running out of cash?!

How much?

The main question! Generally an IP will use a professional valuer to assess what the assets are worth in a forced sale. You will not get access to that figure, so consider using your own knowledge or that of a friendly valuer to help assess what the assets might be worth. Then set a price that you think is fair and that you are prepared to open at. Set a maximum price and do not go over that if the IP comes back saying they have higher offers and asking if you are prepared to bid higher.

Don’t over pay is easy to write but hard to make work in practice.

If your offer is accepted, ALWAYS use a lawyer to advise you and check the deal and ask about technical issues below.

Technical Warnings

Trade name Issues

S216 insolvency Act 1986 precludes the reuse of trade names unless the use is permitted by the court or office holder, and the acquirer was not involved with the failed company previously. Be careful of this – if you take on the directors/managers they could face criminal charges if this is not addressed properly.


By acquiring a business you may have to honour the employment contracts of ALL of the employees. This can be another legal minefield so get advice on it, early.

Financial Assistance Rules

(s151 153 Companies Act 1985) Make sure the deal complies with the financial assistance rules. Don’t understand what that is?! Suggest you get legal advice now.


Make sure that the landlord is involved in discussions – will it offer a new lease? Will you have to put down a rent deposit? How will this affect your working capital needs?

Same goes for secured asset lenders will they novate the deal to Newco? Will major suppliers supply? Are customers prepared to work with you?


These are just some of the key issues in buying a business out of insolvency and it’s a must to do your homework very carefully. Remember don’t get emotionally attached to the deal. Get advice from an insolvency practitioner or turnaround advisor, advice from lawyers and accountants and then carefully decide.  From a legal perspective it might be worth looking at this page from Pitmans Lawyers that covers this area

It’s just worth repeating again that this is a failed company, it’s future depends on an immense amount of your hard work, some luck and generally your money.

Finally, “if it smells it’s usually off”! So walk away and save your money for another opportunity.

Please call 08009700539 or email us for further details.

Man with umbrella

What Is A Winding Up Petition By HMRC or Other Creditor

A winding up petition is a legal notice put forward to the court by a creditor. The creditor petitions to the court if they are owed more than £750 and it has not been paid for more than 21 days. The application, in effect, asks the court to liquidate the company as they believe the company is insolvent.

What Is A Winding Up Petition By HMRC or Other Creditor

Notice of Intention To Appoint Administrators

A notice of intention to appoint administrators is when the company files a document to the court to outline that it intends to go into administration if a solution cannot be found to its immediate financial problems. It can be used as part of the pre-pack administration process as well as used to restructure a failing business to avoid its liquidation.

Notice of Intention To Appoint Administrators
Man with balloon

What Does Going Into Administration Mean?

Going into administration is when a company becomes insolvent and is put under the control of Licensed Insolvency Practitioners.  The directors and the secured lenders can appoint administrators through a court process in order to protect the company and their position as much as possible. Going Into Administration - A Simple Guide Administration is a very powerful process for gaining control when a company has serious cashflow problems, is insolvent and facing serious threats from creditors. The Court may appoint a licensed insolvency practitioner as administrator. This places a moratorium around the company and stops all legal actions.The administration must have a purpose and the Government encourages the use of company rescue mechanisms after administration. The 3 purposes (or objectives) of Administration Rescuing the company as a going concern. (Note: this purpose is to rescue the Company as opposed to rescuing the business undertaken by the Company.)Company rescue as a going concern – this is usually a  company voluntary arrangement. The company enters protective administration and is then restructured before entering into a CVA. The CVA would set out proposals for repayment of debts to secured, preferential and unsecured creditors. When the company has its CVA approved by creditors, then the administration process comes to an end after 28 days. Achieving a better result for the company's creditors This is as a whole than would be likely if the company was to be wound up (liquidation) See the differences between Administration and Liquidation.  This better result is usually obtained by selling the BUSINESS as a going concern to one or more buyers. The company and the debts are “left behind”. The better result may include securing transfer or employees under TUPE, as well as selling goodwill, intellectual property and assets. Controlling and then selling property/debtors. This is called realising assets. Then the administrator makes a distribution to one or more secured or preferential creditors, in order of creditors priority. Usually the business ceases trading and employees are made redundant.Only if the first two options are deemed unattainable, can the administrator use this third option.Under the administration option, it is possible for the company and its directors (or a creditor like the bank) to apply to the court to put the company into administration through a streamlined process.However, the law requires that any finance provider (like a bank or lender), with the appropriate security, is contacted and the aims of the administration be discussed and approved. The finance provider must have a fixed and floating charge (usually under a debenture) and the charge holder will need to give permission for the process to go ahead. Five days clear notice is required.  Be aware, though, that a secured lender can appoint administrators over a company without notice if it thinks its money is at risk.  So communication with the secured lender is essential.  

What Does Going Into Administration Mean?

What is Receivership?

in What is …? What is receivership?

Understanding Receivership: Receivership, also known as administrative receivership, is a legally sanctioned procedure where an entity, typically a lender like a bank, appoints a receiver. The primary role of this receiver is to "receive" and liquidate the company's assets, if necessary, to repay the lender. This process is particularly beneficial to creditors as it aids in the recovery of defaulted funds, potentially preventing the company from facing liquidation The introduction of a receivership simplifies the lender's task of securing owed funds in cases of borrower default.Receivership should not be confused with administration and a receiver can only be appointed by a holder of a qualifying floating charge created before September 2003. Changes to this procedure were brought in by The Enterprise Act 2002 which promoted company rescue and saving struggling businesses. Why would a company go into receivership?The company requires finance for its activities and borrows from a bank (or other secured lender). In consideration for providing the loan, the bank requires security. Normally the company will sign a debenture with a fixed and floating charge. This offers the bank security over the assets of the company. If the terms of the agreement are breached or the company does not conform to the bank's wishes, the charge holder can:Appoint investigating accountants to ascertain how secure or not the bank's debt is and determine the best route forward (not always receivership). Demand formal repayment of the loans without notice. Appoint a receiver to administer and receive the company's assets.The receiver has a duty to collect the bank's debts only,they are not generally concerned with the other unsecured creditors or shareholders' exposure.Receivership - A typical appointment Having borrowed against a business plan that has not worked, a company finds that it is suffering cashflow problems. In an effort to survive, the company reports its problems to the bank and the bank asks for more information on the problems the company faces. Struggling with the problems of firefighting, the directors find it difficult to produce the information. Often the accountancy and reporting systems are not robust and a lot of time is needed to work out where the company is going, what the depth of the problems is and the necessary reporting to the bank is delayed.As time goes by, the company's overdraft is constantly at its limit, because monies don't come in fast enough from customers. Clearly this should set alarm bells ringing at the company - it most certainly does at the bank. They call this ceiling borrowing, and take it as a sign that the directors are losing control.  When this happens the bank will review the account and will typically take some or all of the following steps: What the Bank will doThe bank will ask for a reduction in its exposure. It will ask for increased security from the directors or shareholders. Usually this takes the form of personal guarantees to support the security that the company has given through the debenture. It may ask for new capital to be introduced by the shareholders. Problem is though, occasionally, this only has the effect of reducing the bank exposure as the bank takes this cash to reduce the borrowing. It can ask for a new business plan from the directors, along with regular reporting. It may ask for the company to consider receivables finance (factoring) to remove its borrowing and move to a factor. Often the bank's own factoring company. If they are still not satisfied that the directors are in control and if the bank is concerned about its exposure it will ask for investigating accountants (or reporting accountants) to look at the business. Normally this is a large firm of accountants who send an insolvency practitioner (IP) into the business to ascertain:Is the business viable? Is the company stable? Does it have a long term future if the present difficulties can be overcome? Is the bank's exposure sufficiently covered in the event of a failure? In this report the IP calculates what the assets of the business are worth on a going-concern basis and in a forced sale scenario (or closure basis). Investigating accountants often recommend that the bank sticks with the business, but that the bank should limit any further borrowing to the fully secured variety - in other words the directors must secure it personally against property for example. If the IP thinks that the company is in serious risk of failure and that the banks may lose money in that event, he/she will usually recommend to the bank that they appoint a receiver or administrator. Usually the bank (bizarrely) requires the directors to "request the bank to appoint a receiver". This is face-saving, and designed to deflect criticism from the bank to the directors.At Company Rescue, we believe that it is wrong that the insolvency practitioner that carries out the investigation could also be the receiver - We think it is essential that his/her role as investigating accountant is limited to just that. However, fortunately most banks now agree that this is not a good approach. Once they are appointed what is the receiver's role and powers?A receiver will quickly ascertain what the prospects for business are and decide whether to sell some or all of the assets, the business as a whole, or to continue to trade whilst a better deal can be achieved. Because of the rules and case law, he may wish to get rid of the assets and staff as soon as possible. (They will have to adopt employment contracts 14 days after the appointment). They may remove directors and employees without impunity. They ultimately decides the way forward and will (often) not take advice from the directors. They must pay the preferential debts (employees claims for arrears of pay and holiday pay) first from any floating charge collections. If a deal is to be done with directors the receiver must first advertise the business and its assets for sale. They must conform to the tight rules and regulations governing receivership and report to the DBEIS. A receiver must investigate the conduct of the directors of the business and file a report with the DBEIS.Disadvantages of Receivership The company is rarely saved in its existing form. Its assets will be subject to "meltdown" ( most people know that in receivership or liquidation assets are sold at a knock down price), often jobs and economic activity are lost.The directors will typically lose their employment and any monies the company is due to them, and the company may cease to trade. In addition the director's conduct is investigated.From the creditors' perspective, it is unlikely that any unsecured creditors will receive any of their money back and often they lose a valuable customer. Clearly the cost of receivership can be very high and the bank has to underwrite the receiver's costs. Advantages of Receivership The bank can take control where directors have maybe lost control. The receiver also has power to act to save the business quickly. The bank can ensure that its exposure is (at least) not increased and hopefully recover all of its money. For directors, the advantages are that it mitigates the risk of wrongful trading and may crystallise a very difficult position allowing them to get on with their lives.Preferential creditors may see their debts repaid by the receiver.Still got questions? Click here for Receivership FAQs. If there are still unanswered questions contact us by email or call 08009700539.If your business is in trouble and the relationship with the bank is breaking down, we suggest that you look carefully at the guides in this site. Receivership may be an option. Work out the viability of the business - can you trim costs? Work out the problems, set out the position and have a meeting of directors. Decide if the business can continue but needs to be restructured or if just not viable then consider administration or if the company's lenders have a debenture pre-dating 2003 then receivership.Please call us on 020 7887 2667 (London) or 08009700539 to talk to an expert turnaround advisor if you would like to talk through your company's options.

What is Receivership?

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