In March 2022, 922 bankruptcies were registered by the business courts. This is an increase of 25.3% compared to February 2022.
The number of registered bankruptcies in March 2022 is higher compared to the same month in 2021 (+52.4%) and in 2020 (+6.1%) but lower than the number of bankruptcies in March 2019 (-2.7%). This increase in the number of bankruptcies is partly due to the fact that the tax authorities have again issued summons in some provinces.
In comparison with February 2022, the number of bankruptcies increased in the Flemish Region (+40,8%) and in the Brussels-Capital Region (+37,2%). In both regions, this number represents an increase compared to March 2021 and March 2020. The 545 registered bankruptcies in March 2022 in the Flemish Region also imply an increase of 22,5% compared to March 2019. In this latter region, one has to go back to October 2013 (626) to find a higher number of bankruptcies.
The number of bankruptcies registered in March 2022 increased compared to February 2022 in all sectors, with ‘Information and communication’ (-3.4%) as the only exception. The strongest increase in the number of bankruptcies is registered in the following three sectors:
- 123 to 182 in the ‘horeca’ sector (+59), which represents the highest number of bankruptcies since January 2020 (201);
- 175 to 210 in trade (+35), where one has to go back to January 2020 (214) to find a higher number;
- 146 to 180 in construction (+34), or the highest number of bankruptcies since December 2019 (188).
The number of jobs lost due to bankruptcies in March 2022 was 2,312. This represents a 30.5% increase compared to February 2022. This also means an increase of 21.3% and 0.2% respectively compared to March 2021 and March 2020, but a decrease compared to March 2019 (-33.3%).
At regional level, the number of job losses increased compared to February 2022 in the Flemish Region (+78.0%) and in the Brussels-Capital Region (+22.5%). Although the number of job losses in March 2022 in the Brussels-Capital Region represents a decrease compared to March 2021 (-0.8%) and 2020 (-13.0%), this is not the case in the Flemish Region (1,467). In the Flemish Region, one has to go back to August 2020 to find a higher number of job losses as a result of bankruptcies (1,795).
Compared to February 2022, the number of job losses increased in all sectors except for ‘Professional, scientific and technical activities’, where the number remained stable. The largest increase in job losses due to bankruptcies is registered in the following three sectors:
- 95 to 264 in transportation and storage (+169), which is the biggest job loss since June 2020 (1,564);
- 273 to 403 in the ‘horeca’ sector (+130), where one has to go back to June 2021 (457) to register more job losses;
- 202 to 278 in industry and energy (+76), or the biggest job loss since August 2020 (278).
In addition to this press release and the supplementary report (NL - FR), Statbel also publishes more detailed monthly figures which can be broken down by municipality, by NACEBEL 2008 class or even dated back to the year 2009. These bankruptcy figures are available on be.STAT via the "Figures" tab of this publication.
When interpreting these figures, account should be taken of the fact that there is a certain delay between the termination of the economic activity and the notification of bankruptcy by the business court. As a result, the economic impact is only reflected in the figures after a certain period of time.
Moreover, because of the Covid-19 crisis, many business courts and registries operated at reduced capacity and limited their activities until 18 May 2020. Furthermore, a royal decree leading to the freezing of bankruptcy proceedings before the courts was in force until 17 June 2020, in order to protect the enterprises that were healthy before 18 March 2020 from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
Then, on Friday 6 November 2020, the government approved a new moratorium on bankruptcies until 31 January 2021 in order to protect enterprises that were obliged to temporarily close their doors following the ministerial decree published on 1 November 2020 amending the ministerial decree of 28 October 2020 on emergency measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
As compensation for the end of this second moratorium, the federal government implemented a reform based on 3 pillars in order to make the access to the procedure for judicial reorganisation more flexible. First, the procedure was simplified by no longer requiring enterprises to immediately submit 11 documents, but only 3. The other documents can be delivered during the procedure. Second, the procedure no longer requires a publication in the Belgian Official Journal. This enables the mediator to meet with the creditors in complete discretion and thus prevent them from demanding a rapid repayment of their claims before an agreement has been reached. Third, the procedure for judicial reorganisation by amicable agreement is encouraged by a tax exemption which, until then, only applied to procedures for judicial reorganisation by court order. The provisions relating to the first two pillars of the reform would initially be in force up to and including 30 June 2021, but were extended until 16 July 2022 by the Royal Decree of 24 June 2021 extending Articles 2, 4 and 12 of the law of 21 March 2021 amending Book XX of the Code of Economic Law and the Income Tax Code 1992.
Between these two moratoriums, the FPS Finance and the NSSO spared, by a de facto moratorium, enterprises by not declaring them bankrupt due to tax and social debts. This arrangement remained in place after 1 February 2021, until the NSSO resumed issuing summons from October 2021 and the tax authorities in various provinces around March 2022.
Moreover, there is the judicial recess in July and August. Courts remain open during this period but the number of hearings is reduced. This is why our figures on bankruptcies are usually lower during this period.
Finally, many measures are also currently in force - at federal, regional and local level - to support enterprises in these times of crisis. For example, the NSSO grants amicable payment plans with a maximum duration of 24 months for the payment of all contributions and sums due for the year 2020. At the level of the National Employment Office, the entire temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus or the conflict in Ukraine can be considered as temporary unemployment due to force majeure ‘corona’ until 30 June 2022.
All these public measures described above have had a moderating impact on the number of bankruptcies declared since March 2020.